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Reading Reflections

Bravo Bill Peltz for so clearly articulating the ways that students can learn beyond a static and didactic approach. I appreciate how he embraces a Dewey- type of teaching philosophy. And as a trainer, I love the inclusion of ice-breakers as a way to generate a community learning space that can be owned by students/participants.

On the CaCophony website, the following quote grabbed my attention, “The faculty do seem to feel as though they are teaching and reaching many of their students… this, it seems to me, is the most you can really hope for from a program that’s taught entirely online.” This thought process seems  contradictory to the approach that Bill Peltz so clearly articulated and what the NSD website suggests on how online techniques can be effectively used to teach in many classrooms and in fact ARE being used across the country (as some of the folks comment on the same Cacophony post). The resistance captured in Luke’s post I think reflects an existing opinion that is reflective of an “old school” mentality that, and someone please comment if I’m you think differently, is especially pervasive among most school leadership (I’m thinking those who comprise the IRB, the Provost and Dean’s Offices).  While I do think the future of technology in classrooms and in research has only yet begun, I think one of the roles that we (those who are interested in new media technology for pedagogy and research) are going to need to be well enough versed in the pros and cons of this pedagogical approach to defend it and to educate existing leadership in the many institutions that we may belong to now and in the future. There is a comfort in practicing what we know and are accustomed to that. As being interested in pushing the envelope to use new media (gaming, mobile devices, blogs, social networks, etc.) for teaching/learning and research, we are challenging a very old institution and we can hope that we be met with an open mind. For example, I think Joe’s comments are particularly well articulated as reasons for online course. I think that what online pedagogical approaches offer are a way to build from what we know works and what doesn’t with traditional f2f approach as well as online approaches to continue to build something that offers the best learning environment and practices for students, and I agree that the question for now  should be HOW, not IF, we should be using online tools for educational and research endeavors.


Posted in Motivations.

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8 Responses

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  1. Janice says

    The thought-share in this blog and in the classroom following our reading of Peltz and that very stimulating discussion group had me thinking that we’re on the verge of a revolution, as in Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” The revolutions that Kuhn spoke of create shifts in understanding and acceptance of “truth;” demark available types of inquiries and potential anwers; and transform the world, much the way that fa may be on the way/need to revolutionalize f2f-thinking if we are to move…

    Evidence THAT we need to move is available in many waays, no less in the readiness of potential students to seek out alternative educational formats. Furthermore, like Kuhn’s “sense of malfunction that can lead to crisis” and revolution, in the arena of pedagogy, there clearly is a sense by many that our traditional mode of instruction has become static and inadequate for the needs of the common, modern citizen..

    But, really, is it broke? That is, does f2f need fixing? Is fa the way to go??
    While I am not sure that I am fully sold on the full monty that is fa, as I juggle full family life, full-time student and employment (as well as part-time adjunct employment), I find that participating in the hybrid course that ITP offers is one of the richest academic experiences that I have enjoyed in my (MANY) years of study in higher education. I am motivated to delve deeper in this series of courses, not because of the sense of guilt/social responsibility/community that were discussed in the last class (though I am sure that I am conscious enough for these to have some bearing). It is the opportunity for ‘thinking aloud’ with other minds; the need to go in far enough to really get it; the fact that I am regularly intrigued by our course of discussion which has immediate applicability to what I plan/do with my class the next time I meet with them. I sit here thinking, “Yes, but may your experiences and those of the students in ITP represent yet another potential “divide”? I mean, of course WE see the possibilities in employing tools that have the potential to reach more, and reach deeper. Still, to Laura’s point, if folks are signing up for this type of instruction they will likely be motivated to use it. After all, you can merely bring the horse to the water..

  2. Laura Kane says


    I think you make an excellent point – we *should* expect to see social inequalities reflected in asynchronous discussions because students that have more free time will be the ones to post more often, and if they post more often they will have more control over the way the discussion goes. Moreover, you’re right about resources too – those who have more privilege will be able to post with more efficiency (for, at the very least, the reasons you listed).
    This is certainly problematic for the model proposed as a supplement to the traditional face-to-face model. However, if someone is taking on online-only course, I could see some of these inequalities becoming less obvious, if only for the fact that the site would be the sole space for learning and interaction. This could potentially interfere less with work / child care obligations, and one would have to assume that the student has at least regular access to a computer to sign up for such a course in the first place.

  3. Hadassah says

    I appreciated Jacob’s mention about time restrictions to student engagement, as when Ugoretz mentioned the resistance to engagement by busy, professional students, I immediately thought of busy [busier?] working-class students, and am wondering about how to express to students from the outset that the time spent engaging in asynchronous discussions — which might seem “extra” — is valuable beyond the marks earned.

    This however brings up the “old school” [ha!] notions of reward on a do-for-credit model, that I go back and forth about: it reaps results and, as a reward-earner, it can be satisfying. This model may also replicate social or cultural inequalities: Students who have more time [less jobs, no children/can afford more child care], or are more computer literate [or own their own late-model computer], etc. seem to have an advantage in these discussions that replicates our old friend Unearned Privilege.

    Do other folks see this or feel this way? I’m really hoping to be convinced otherwise, but it’s hard for me not to see this facet of aysnchronous class engagement. I guess this also relates to visioning of several Users as we develop digital sites of engagement…

  4. Kiran says

    It’s interesting how just after reading the first page of Ugoretz’s article that I immediately identified with the need for some productive digression in asynchronous discussion. ITP core 1 was the first class that I ever took that used some form of asynchronous discussion. I think in many cases, I was extremely hesitant to contribute or discuss because as a scientist I simply did not appreciate the content in the manner that i think(?) i was expected.

    After that experience I realize my impression was probably due to the rigidity of the structure of most science classes that emphasizes specialized conceptual learning and vast amounts of tedious memorization with very little assimilation into a broader model or context. I realize that the majority of undergraduate science study suffers from this, and i love engaging my students in thinking about the bigger picture like the broad context of the effect of some cellular mechanism on an organ’s function, or the animals reproductive fitness or even the species’ continued ecological role etc. Asynchronous discussion is sorely lacking in biology and I think it would be incredibly constructive to foster that kind of thinking. This is the major reason for my project idea.

  5. Michael Mandiberg (they/them) says

    Good points all.

    One of the key moments in the cac.ophany comment thread is this comment Joe makes: “I think it’s good to start by questioning that assumption. Why should we assume, without questioning, that there is an advantage to meeting physically, in-person, in a brick and mortar classroom (or forest glen, rented-out office building, or whatever). ” Where does this assumption come from? Is it a fair assumption? It seems like most of you that have posted see two sides of this point: Mei-Ling wants to preserve the lecture, Jacob just doesn’t see it *working* with his students, Amy wants more evidence based proof, and Naomi is quick to point out that the GUI becomes super important in constructing reality (something that is also present in Kiran’s proposal)

    One theme that reoccurs throughout your posts, as well as in Naomi’s thread, is the conflict between innovation and convention. There are certain conventional ways of teaching: how are these conventions reproduced? Which is to say, how do instructors learn how to teach?

  6. Amy says

    I also really appreciated Pelz’s article — and found it refreshing and inspiring. I feel like getting this approach “to work” will require an overall shift in norms in teaching style. If all (or most) classes (from grade school on up), incorporate some level of effective online pedagogy, then perhaps it won’t feel like added work or burden (like what Jacob was saying about his students), but that it’s just a part of the learning process. Of course, this gets at what Sonia was saying, about needing to defend this process and educate “old school” institutions. I think we also need more evaluations and a stronger evidence base that this is the way to go.

  7. Jacob Lederman says

    Peltz’s concrete ideas for online teaching were a welcome intervention for me. I have been trying this on my own this semester (not the entire class but the pre-class discussions) and have not had great results. Almost all of the things he mentions I have failed to do and I think it shows!! My Facebook discussion board is is pretty much a reflection of everything he says shouldn’t be happening (students won’t react to one another, they post at the last possible minute, there is very little continuity in the discussion and I have set no objective way of assessing their participation other than “did you participate”). In this respect his ideas are really useful to me and intuitively make a whole lot of sense. On the other hand — and I think we’ve discussed this before — I just don’t see my students reflected in his comments. My sense is that the rigor, discipline and time commitment that these practices involve would turn many students off. I imagine the students he teaches also work full time as many of mine do, and so I simply don’t really get how he’s making it work. My impression of many of my students is that there is quite literally a fixed amount of time they have to spend on any one class and frankly nothing I do is going to change that. Many of them — even if there were punitive costs for non-participation — I think would accept those costs rather than putting in the kind of time that many of these ideas call for. That said, I think many of the practices he mentions certainly point in the right direction as far how to increase participation and engagement.

    I found it interesting to consider the idea of the online space in some senses being more conducive toward peer interaction than the traditional classroom. Even though I’m sure psychologists and/or neurologists would tell us that there are real chemical changes that result from being in the physical presence of teachers and peers, I do recognize a certain reticence on the part of students to engage with their classmates. Some of this I think just has to do with shyness etc. I sense that an online space in some respects does eliminate some of the barriers to this kind of interaction.

  8. meiling says

    These readings were certainly inspirational in terms of the potentials of online or “asynchronous” learning. I was especially impressed by Petz’s innovations and artful means of drawing students into the most participatory ways to interact and also evaluate their own collective process. However, I could not help thinking that, even in face-to-face teaching, a course can only be as good as its instructor and his/her ability to harness the students capacities. I had never heard that term, “sage on a stage” before but it is certainly apt! Yet I must admit I have heard some great lecturers in my (long life) of education and somehow that form–which is also an art form–must be preserved somehow, maybe by a video installment in online situations. Following the thought processes of a professional academic can be very illuminating this way.
    But–to agree with most of the writers–asynchronicity has some great advantages, when put to creative use. I think it takes a particular kind of teacher who is in some ways courageous and creative enough to step back and let the students self-learn, self-organize and self-evaluate this way (and design the means for that to happen–no coincidence Petz is in psychology). Perhaps some Petz-like processes could be incorporated into standard online learning systems to assist less adept instructors. Certainly, it gives us good examples for what we can make of the digital learning tools we are currently designing.

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