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“When Teaching Becomes an Interaction Design Task: Networking the classroom with collaborative blogs,

Mushon Zer-Aviv’s article provides thoughtful admonitions concerning the pitfalls of blindly using technologies within the classroom without considering the types of learning processes that each tool fosters and potentially hinders.  Here are some comments that I found most interesting:

“I see no point in using tools and methodologies in class that would be useless outside class. This is equivalent to saying that learning is something that happens in class but not outside it.” One of my favorite but hackneyed quotes by Dewey is: education is not preparation for life, but life itself.  Everything that we encourage students to do within our classrooms should enable them to critically engage in the world as it is right now; we can’t continue to be preoccupied with the future if we want students to see value in what they are learning today.  It is a daunting, but necessary task to find relevance in everything that we teach.

“I believe we should try to teach our students to teach themselves. This, too, is more easily said than done. Acquiring self-education skills is demanding and some students get it more easily than others.”  I never really thought about how to structure learning experiences so that students teach themselves.  I’m interested to know how others cultivate a community of self-learners.

“Are we promoting a learning environment that benefits those like us and cripples others? I have to admit I am still grappling with this question and would appreciate a wider debate of this subject.”   Most educators tend to teach and assess students the way that they learned.  I believe the realistic compromise is to prepare students to succeed in our extant world-whether this means excelling on an exam—and expose them to multiple means of expression.

The author’s statement also forces us to think about this issue of access.  I also don’t know how to answer this question without sounding privileged to an extent.  When I encourage teachers to construct Google sites or wiki pages where they can post their syllabus and class assignments, they always say, “Well many students don’t have computers at home.”  I get frustrated by this answer because ALL of the students have web-enabled cell phones.  The students have also internalized this attitude of have-not to excuse their ability of being challenged and held accountable.  I believe that access shouldn’t always dictate a teacher’s expectation of students.

“Another caveat of the networked classroom is networking technology at large: information overload and attention scarcity.”  The influx of information has helped us to expand our background knowledge, but hasn’t taught us how to critically think about it.  How do we teach students to be better judgers of information?



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5 Responses

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  1. Janice says

    I am particularly intrigued by your discussion about access; it introduces another important dimension to the democratizatin question. I look forward to exploring this futher.
    I am definietely in agreement withyou regarding the challenge inteaching critical thinking–crtical and creative thinking, in fact. This too is a topic that i fell I cannot hear enough about.
    Thanks for your post!

  2. Hadassah Damien says

    Thanks Ria for the points about pushing students to go new places and to explore resources that *are* available to them. There’s an adventure narrative in there somewhere that must be exploitable for motivating students [and ourselves] to seek new sites of knowledge.

  3. ria banerjee says

    Tope, I especially appreciate your last point, about access. This is something I struggle with myself, because I know that to some extent, it is an issue of privilege to have access to unlimited internet (via phone or computer) or unlimited time at a functioning computer terminal. As someone who has spent five long years with the world’s worst Dell computer, I say “functioning” with the personal experience that even sitting in a cushy dorm room with unlimited hi-speed internet, there are some things that your machine can’t handle and thus, that you can’t do.

    However, especially in this city, I feel that this very valid concern is used as an excuse by any number of students to cover other inadequacies, even besides laziness–among them, rigidity of work habits and ignorance of available facilities like the NYPL. I teach a film class and I find, to my surprise, that most students are hesitant to borrow DVDs from the NYPL and even their own CUNY libraries. It’s not fair to only say students are lazy, because that can’t be the only reason all the time. It seems to me that the kind of discomfort that some experience in online spaces is carried over into the real world in terms of feeling like a sham or just not liking to go to a space like the Donnell library or another CUNY campus where everything is unfamiliar.

    To this end, I enjoyed Zer-Aviv’s experiment with Google, in what it perhaps tries to do for students–force them to be more comfortable in the real world, without this online crutch. To find things or to look for stores by using their own eyes. To go places where they haven’t been, and necessarily become comfortable in them, because there is nothing inherently “good” or “bad” about space, except for the transferred epithet your perception endows it with…

  4. Sonia K. González says

    Thanks for your probing questions, Tope, I think important considerations that educators (of all types) overlook are overall learning goals and objectives and how those can all be accomplished over the course of a semester or year, etc. I think that the methods used to then reach these objectives can then be determined. Also, I think it’s important that when using technology (or any teaching method, I suppose) there are intended and unintended consequences – I say this to suggest that sometimes we are pleasantly surprised by how technology might lend itself towards learning.

  5. Asif Patel says

    Very true. I came across Professor who didn’t use online blackboard. I suffered in the class, not to blame, but was difficult to follow instructions without having blackboard.

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