Session Three—Teaching Today’s Students

Online Communities
Online Communities Cartoon by Randall Munroe of xkcd:A Webcomic of Romance, Sarcasm, Math, and Language

We’ll devote a good portion of today’s session to working collaboratively on our blog, capitalizing on the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ to discover some of the tips and tricks to blog posting. Then we’ll share some reactions to today’s readings. It’s all about teaching and reaching today’s students. Are we ready for them?

Manuela:

I was intrigues by the “chacha.com” news. I had not heard about it before. I was looking what qualifications they were looking for in people who do the search for others. Since we often have the problem that our students are not always the best judges of what information they find online is valuable I wonder how chacha can contribute to the solution of this problem. I also always think about how we can teach our students to use sources critically and cautiously. I would like to see how services like “chacha.com” address this.

Martina

Dear Manuela,

Yes, your thoughts reflect my thinking/possible concerns. It wonderful that Social Networking allows us (in an idealistic sense) more or less total freedom and, as Helen Sword and Michele Leggott described it in “Backwards into the Future” (a wonderful article!!!), to break down the “traditional boundaries between ‘me’ and ‘us'”. It is promising to share ideas so easily and fast. Nevertheless, I agree with you and we should be aware of the possible downsides. This fast access of information by those student’s, who are not critical, carries often the danger of not being “approved” and leads to a very superficial way of learning. From this perspective, information becomes an input and is not leading to further thoughts of an individual or a society. Even worse, as Kathrine Grayson’s “Network Chacha” describes it, people pay people to select online information for them. Fastfood and Fastbraininput? What is the next step, to find someone who thinks for you? A society a la “Matix” or a “cyberspace odyssee” with a new HAL? I think this reminds us once more of the essences of our profession: to research and find new ways/ideas, to teach others to join us and to share insights in an interactive (!)/social process, and to enjoy (!) critical thinking at the same time.

Fulvio

As a language instructor, in my classes I adopt the communicative approach, which focuses on the negotiation of meaning rather than linguistic form. In my content-based courses, I believe that part of my role as a teacher is to identify my students’ needs, tailoring my teaching methods and course content to address them. I also think it is important to acknowledge the diversity of learners and learning contexts. I am convinced that students learn better when they can relate not only to the material but also to the way it is presented to them. In my quest to explore new approaches, I have become interested in all Web 2.0 applications. Tools such as wikis and blogs represent a second generation of applications that aim to facilitate collaboration and sharing between users by using the web as a platform. In order to stimulate communication outside of the classroom I avail myself of such technologies. The usage of IM (Instant Messenger) and of blogs has allowed me to go beyond the boundaries of the classroom in both content-based and language courses. Students of language courses who engage in regular conversations through these applications are offered a valuable opportunity to practice their written skills in the target language, whereas students of content-based courses have the opportunity to deepen their discussion of texts and films. Outside the classroom, the online WebCT resource has also helped me in providing students with weekly class outlines and other relevant materials. Once again, I look forward to integrate more web 2.0 applications into my teaching style thanks to this course.

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2 Responses to “Session Three—Teaching Today’s Students”

  1. felicebeneduce Says:

    Felice:

    Collaborative editing/blogging
    Notwithstanding the clamor which the supposedly inherent democratization of the Net elicits, in order for it to be viable as a pedagogical tool – and its does have an admittedly enormous potential, not only for students but also for professors/instructors – collaborative editing must entail some sort of hierarchy for an effective use, otherwise it remains an endeavor fraught with dangers. Even a workshop requires an editor-in-chief, as it were, to integrate and coordinate the input material, to eliminate or smooth out conflicting entries made by the collaborators (although this also is extremely difficult, especially with “hot-button” issued). The “project leader” mentioned in the article, therefore, seems to me an indispensable aspect of collaborative editing while at the same time putting a damper on the whole notion of Net’s “limitless freedom”. On the other hand, the possibility of sabotage in Wiki-type writing – an aspect made explicit in the Dielbod article – and the threat of unchecked (and anonymous) revisionists tendencies are offset in my opinion by the envisioning of the blog as an online journal, an unedited expression unhindered by censorship: biased and inaccurate information is always better than any form of bowdlerized information.
    However, I felt these two articles to be a bit vague – the call for “a conscientious and trusted group of editors” seems to be a must in all these pieces – on the nuts and bolts of a course based on collaborative editing and blogging. Moreover, I was rather puzzled by the idea of material lost due to editing: it is fairly easy to keep track of a document’s editing history with Word and I do not understand what the changes made during collaborative editing could not be saved somehow. The use of different colors and the instant tracking of changes of online material – again, a powerful didactic tool – reminded me of Natalie’s demonstration last week of her French lit course.

    I felt the most interesting aspect of the Windham article was the definition of the blog as a soapbox, platform for sharing of voices, a bastion of liberty in an increasingly Orwellian world – library records anyone? – from which aspiring writers may achieve renown. In our field, clearly the problem is not the blogging itself but the subject matter: although students will spend hours on a sports blog or a Brittney Spears blog, they often are unable to provide critical thought on e piece of literature, and as a result produce bloggings along the line “the book sucked” (I do NOT agree that there will be an increasing sense of accountability on the students’ part concerning what they place on the Web).

    As I stated previously, although blogs may reveal themselves to be excellent tools in the teaching of foreign languages, providing the student with authentic examples of the spoken tongue – slang, even dialect – there is always the danger that if chat-like expressions creep into the exchanges, this may cause confusion. It is fundamentally important, as stated in the articles, to set for the students clear rules and expectations, above all as concerns style and grammar (thereby eliminating various “gonna,” “wanna,” etc.). In this sense, I found the five-point guideline described in the Dossier to be an excellent starting point.

    The Dossier’s definition of “communal contructivism” as a means to circumvent power knowledge relations dovetailed perfectly in my mind with description the Web as a challenge to the Gates hegemony, thus representing what Internet truly should be.

    On a closing note: is face-to-face learning inevitably on the path towards extinction?

  2. Barbara Says:

    Although we discussed some of our classroom teaching experiences during our seventh session, I thought I would post this here, since it seems most appropriate. On October 9th I shared with you a brief overview of Michael Wesch’s ‘anti-teaching’ philosophy, which was, in part, a response to his frustration with some aspects of the traditional lecture format. In addition, he has posted a short video introduction to his World Simulation Project which he uses for his students. Here is the full video. And lastly, here is his World Simulation Project, complete with objectives and how-tos.


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