Teaching Today’s Students


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

This comic by Randall Munroe does such a nice job, I think, of depicting the various social networking sites that many of our students today use to connect with each other that I thought I would ‘recycle’ it from last year’s post. Clicking on the graphic will take you to the original comic where you will find the option to enlarge the picture to really see all the various countries and islands and bodies of water. You might also find an interesting message from the author.

Navigating these online communities can seem a lot like exploring unfamiliar countries where you don’t know the language, the culture or the customs. So, I wonder, as language and culture specialists (is this an unfair question?)—in which ‘countries’ are you likely to find your students and how well can you communicate with them?

For this week’s class I thought we could start off by working together on our blog, move on to check out some podcasts and blogs listed on our blogroll and then wrap it up with a look at some student work.

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5 Responses to “Teaching Today’s Students”

  1. nmcclure17 Says:

    I found this illustration interesting for several reasons. I’m not sure if any of them will directly answer your particular question, but I think it does touch on assumptions about culture.
    First of all, I noticed that there are ONLY digital exchanges in this illustration. So does Munroe think that our students no longer communicate outside of the e-world? I don’t honestly think that’s the case. Rather, I sense from my students that they still prefer some ‘old-fashioned’ exchanges for a lot of things – usually personally-focused things like grades, relationships, etc. The technology is not necessarily a substitute language/culture, but a second option, an alternative. We have not yet reached an impasse where our students are so far technologically obsessed that we can’t still use traditional pedagogy. For instance, the new HuskyCT has an option to link to a student’s Facebook page. Basically all announcements and calendar dates in HuskyCT will appear on Facebook. I casually mentioned this to my students as a link I would enable if they wanted it and they were all apalled at the idea! For them, Facebook is a leisure activity. It’s social, not academic.
    That being said, I think that Munroe’s illustration is actually quite deceptive. It may have been better if he had shown a student with a double life. I have actually found that many students are not opposed to non-tech approaches in the classroom. In some ways, those traditional ways are a bit comforting to them. BUT – I in no way think that this is an excuse to simply dismiss technology in the classroom, nor is it a call to out-tech our students. I’ve said this before, but I think some kind of balance between pedagogical purpose and technological influence has to be struck. All of this is of course contingent on tech literacy on both sides and considering the diversity of people in the classroom, how is that to be achieved?

  2. nmcclure17 Says:

    One other thing to think about…
    My husband handed me a Q&A with Mark Bauerlein that was published in a recent issue of Reason. (You can find the video interview here.) Bauerlein recently published The Dumbest Generation in which he argues that “the digital age stupifies young Americans and jeopardizes our future.” He’s quite obviously a conservative when it comes to education and I definitely think he’s being far too pessimistic with that comment. However, later in his interview he specifically addresses the dual-life that I referred to in my previous comment, claiming that students are not exploring new frontiers in access to information, but rather “access to other teenagers.” Bauerlein is worried that students will become stuck in adolescence because they are not exploring knowledge. Like I said, I think he is a bit of an extremist, but I do think that it’s worth considering what our students are using technology for on their own. Even more so, should we be at least a little prepared if we experience resistance from them when we cause their worlds to collide technologically-speaking? Yes – there is a wealth of opportunities for learning via Web 2.0, etc. And yes – our students are technologically-inclined. But do they want those two things to work together? This is not an angle that gets discussed very often, but maybe it should…

    ***Also, Reason.tv features The Drew Carey Project. In one of the episodes, Carey explores Second Life and all of its parallels between the virtual and actual realities, including corruption, etc. Watch it here.

  3. jessiemcbride Says:

    I totally agree with Nicole in terms of how students view traditional and newer approaches to learning…I mentioned to my class yesterday that we were going to be using a blog instead of HuskyCT and there were several groans… I asked what the issue was and for the most part they seemed nervous (rather than excited) about the prospect of having their names attached to their ideas for the world to see. One student said “Why can’t we just have a lecture? It’s probably easier on all of us.” I doubt they’d be pro-lecture if we had them for a week. I think this aversion to new approaches is sometimes laziness on the part of our students. It definitely takes more energy to be invested in something than to just sit abck and have things said at you. I’ll keep you posted on our progress. Totally off topic from Barbara’s original question…but hopefully still pertinent to the discussion.

  4. nmcclure17 Says:

    I don’t think it’s off topic. I really believe that Munroe’s map is missing another hemisphere that our students live in as well. It may very well be a bit of laziness and apprehension about the work that is involved, but like I said before – this tech world is their social world. Just like they wouldn’t want us showing up at parties, they aren’t that keen with us showing up in their virtual party either.

  5. Barbara Says:

    Just to clarify–Randall Munroe’s comic is about online communities in general and not student online worlds in particular. Having said that though, your critiques and questions address core educational concerns—what is knowledge? whose knowledge is valued? who has access to knowledge that is valued? what is the role of education in all of this? is technology a tool, an approach or a form of knowledge?


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