breaking molds

Following up on last week’s post about paradigm shifts and the changes in practice and attitude that they require, here are a few things I’d like to break:

  • I’d like to break the computer lab mold where rows of desks and computers face the front of the room/instructor. It’s long been known that computer-mediated classrooms are best designed with computers around the perimeter of the classroom, so that the instructor can walk around and easily see the work of students. In well-equipped rooms, there would be a desk that students could turn around to for traditional presentation of information (aka lecture). Go here to see a diagram of such a classroom at the University of South Florida.
    • Such a configuration is part of the student-centered learning concept. You can imagine how the old power structure of the instructor towering over the rows of facing students is replaced by shared power and active learning in this environment.
    • This arrangement also addresses faculty fears that students at computers are doing things online that are irrelevant to the course, because faculty are privy to what’s on every screen.
  • I’d like to break the pattern of using the classroom podiums for show and tell only. Without wireless access that could make any room a computer-mediated classroom at the instructor’s discretion, we are limited to the technology provided by the podiums. Most of us haven’t figured out how to make the equipment more interesting than a good slideshow. Have any of you developed any hands-on activities using the podiums? Do you ever hand over the mouse to students to present interesting sites to the class? Would you use a personal response system (clickers) in a PowerPoint, if available, to make a presentation more interactive?
  • Finally, I’d like to break the assumption that students come to us technology savvy. There is a difference between being comfortable with technology, with using a mouse, with playing on the Web, with communicating with friends, and with using technology to do research, perform academic tasks, and participate in creating knowledge. We still need to teach technology literacy, not just for the four years students spend here, but for their future careers!
    • How often do you face the fact that most students come here not knowing how to format a page in Word? or how to create a hanging indent for a bibliography? or how to set up pagination in a header?
    • How often have you encountered poor Web sources in research papers because students don’t know how to evaluate good information on the Web?
      • Do your students even know how to use good search terms or do they give up when the first term they think of doesn’t produce results?
    • Why do students seem to know how to cite print information, but frequently commit plagiarism by pasting information from the Web?

I think we could create a number of good opportunities to refresh the educational environment by breaking a few molds. What are your ideas?

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Categories: technology

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