Presentation Tools

Digital Natives
Photo Credit: Digital Natives by Cristóbal Cobo Romaní

I thought I would pose to you some questions I asked last year’s class about this week’s articles. Chapter 7 of Educating the Net Generation discusses the results of a 2004 student technology use survey at 13 selected institutions. How do the results compare with your own teaching and learning experiences? Do you think the focus on ‘information technology’ and the activities that represent them as defined in Table 1 replicates or rejects ‘traditional’ teaching approaches? And is that necessarily good or bad?

Chapter 9 of Educating the Net Generation takes up where Chapter 7 left off and explores some of the issues that arise when students who have had collaborative, multisensory, technology-enhanced learning experiences (inside and outside their school environments) arrive at college. When considering your future students does it make pedagogical sense to replicate the kind of learning experiences the Net Gen has apparently participated in or is there something to be said for a ‘traditional’ college approach?


12 Responses to “Presentation Tools”

  1. sondrus Says:

    Chart 1 seems to be in line with the students at UConn. Regarding creating web pages or video, they might do this once a semester for a class.
    I think using technology can help students to even adapt to “the traditional approach.” Take for example discussions. I notice a great deal of students who seem passive in discussions, students who I imagine must be thinking “just tell me what to think, to know.” With such students blogs, WallWisher, VoiceThread just to name a few could help them to begin to actually DO discussion and interaction. They might come to see that an important part of learning is experimental, always in flux, open to debate, based on interpretation…. These online modes of discussion also might help students to see why and how discussion can be fun, instead of feeling frustrated that “we were not told how to think or what to say.”
    Also, technology can serve as a buffer, which can enable students to feel less inhibited to express themselves and think. Perhaps the technology could make a group more cohesive sooner? Also, technology might help with “problem students.” I am thinking of a case where one of my students dominated the classroom and sort of attacked other students. She was obviously very smart, but intimidating and overbearing. I wonder if an online/technology component would have helped to “balance her out?”
    I loved Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Tips. I wish at conferences we saw presenters thinking “What three things do I want my audience to remember from my presentation?” It seems if such a presentation is given, it is received as “too simplistic, not sophisticated enough.” However, I find such presentations memorable. Also, they make me feel I actually learned something.

    • kemen528 Says:

      I completely agree with your observation about the passivity of students in discussions. I see this often as an LTL TA in the gigantic lecture halls where many of the students just sit there and do not seem very engaged in the professor’s lecture. It reminds me of the quote that is said in the Chapter 9 reading, “death by Powerpoint.”How these gigantic lectures have just turned into never ending powerpoint presentations that, many times, do not require a student’s attendance. Many professors put their powerpoint slides on HuskyCT thinking that the students will print out the slides and take notes on them in class, but many of them skip class and rely on the powerpoints to “get by.”Like you said, we have to foster a more hands-on, student-centered environment in these lecture halls, but I really feel as if though too many professors on this campus still have antiquated perceptions of technology for pedagogical use. Basically, I think that everyone knows that too much of a good thing is not good, which is definitely the case of the use of Powerpoint for lecture.

      • christopherlaine Says:

        I agree that it’s a problem so many students sit passively in discussion sections. I had a class last semester without a single student eagerly participating. (In my defense, it was scheduled for Friday at 2:00: one low-tech solution for this problem would be to sensibly schedule these classes, rather than expecting students to care about medieval poetry when it’s a sunny Friday afternoon.) And I know from experience that sometimes you don’t have anything you feel confident in saying, and sometimes even you can’t quite formulate a question about what you don’t understand, so I can’t in good conscience actually follow through on what amounts to a threat in marking down their participation grade. But I don’t see how a blog format like ours would help this much. If you don’t feel confident saying something in class, wouldn’t it be worse to be forced to come up with some crap and for it to be posted indefinitely for all to see?

    • Lay Says:

      I agree with the results presented on Chapter 7 of Educating the Net Generation. Indeed, my students spend a big chunk of time in “classroom activities and studying using an electronic device” and word-processing. If I just take into account the amount of time it is required of them to write a composition for my class, and then multiply it for, at least, four other classes, then two to five hours using a computer seems like a very little number. Just take a walk in the library and you will be able to see how most of the students have a computer in them and are working. Then, go to the information desk and check out the number of computers signed out to use. Afterwards, go to the first floor and try to find a computer to work. (For those of you who are not at University of Connecticut, this task is especially difficult most of the time.)

      Now, I want to point out something from Chapter 9 of Educating the Net Generation:

      “Much of the learning technology innovation in higher education has been focused on K–12 teacher preparation and development. More focus needs to be placed on preparing existing faculty for the future Net Generation students who will populate the 21st-century classroom.”

      This for me is the most interesting part of the article. Why is it that people is so focused on K-12 preparation? How can we prepare the college faculty for the Net Gen? Is it as simple as teaching them how to use a wiki or to have a computer in class? The answers are not on the technology itself, but on mentalities.

      “To the extent that colleges and universities involve interested faculty and students in working together to develop tools that truly engage them both, the more fruitful their efforts are likely to be for the larger higher education community.”

  2. chenwenh Says:

    Reading these results of the survey done by ECAR in 2004, I was surprised. I thought my use of technology or incorporating it in the classroom should increase the amount of time students spend on course materials or doing course-related activities. However, the study shows that students don’t feel this way. What surprised me more is that I am not the only one believing the myth of technology being a panacea. Over half of faculty members “reported they perceived” students spend more time with course materials because of the technology in class (Kvavik). Are we just too naive about the impact of instructional technology? I reflect on my own graduate courses, and it occurred to me that I should not feel surprised at all. I had seminars that contain no or low technological elements, but I still like those courses and would evaluate them as effective, engaging and inspiring. What drives me to explore course materials deeper is never the technology itself, but how the teacher teaches and how the content is delivered, by any means, including that of technology. Effective use of technology in the classroom depends on a good pedagogical purpose of it. In other words, technology in teaching needs not to be taken as an end itself; rather, it should function as a helpful tool that enhances learning and improves teaching.

    Therefore, I would still vote for the focus on information technology. After all, the job market already shows that an applicant with higher information literacy is a more valuable asset. Perhaps such a focus neither rejects nor replicates “traditional” teaching approaches; instead, it shares with those “traditional” approaches the same teaching and learning objectives. Traditional or not, the ultimate goal is to develop students’ skills and to maximize student learning outcomes. This ECAR survey did indicate an important fact that technology is an absolute necessity to our students’ personal lives, but not so in their learning. Then we had to revises those “traditional” approaches by focusing on the use of technology so that we could guide them to invest more time with their computers doing “academic” activities. However, faculty members alone might not be able to integrate technology into an ideal 21st-century curriculum. Thus, while a focus on information technology is necessary, another claim must also be made. Clayton-Pedersen and O’Neill suggest that higher education institution should offer support and training for faculty to integrate technology into the curriculum. If we don’t want students feel “death by PowerPoint,” we must develop the skills of designing lesson plans that employs technology effectively and properly. I know, from my last semester’s methodology course, UConn has a team–IDD–that provides for faculty members assistance with instructional designs.

    As to our future students, even though they have been born to communicate and collaborate online, I would still insist that we instructors never forget the myth of overestimating their information literacy levels. Well said McEuen, “Fluency with information technology might be compared to fluency in writing. All of our students come to college knowing how to write, but many students aren’t developed writers.” These digital natives are not developed writers; nor are they information literate students. To improve their writing abilities, universities integrate writing into courses of all disciplines and have a writing center. To raise the level of information literacy and fluency, we need to add technology as an indispensable item of our teaching and their learning.

    • celeste2010 Says:

      I found really interesting your idea of incorporating technology when designing the curriculum.
      Going a little beyond, it might be vital for the course, given that the use of technology should be meaningful and really useful to develop the class goals otherwise it may end up being only a complication and distraction.
      Also we should take into account that each class is different, i.e. those who teach language classes may find some tools quite useful while the same tools may be ineffective in other classes.

      • sarahmelvine Says:

        After reading Chenwen’s response I realized that she feels the same way as I do about drawing false binaries between “traditional” and “technological” approaches to teaching. I agree that as a graduate student the most inspiring classes for me used no formal technology in its approach; all we needed was a room, some curious minds and a skilled mediator. I do not think that we should make the mistake of equating “traditional” with obsolescence. I think that we definitely are perpetuating a myth of information literacy with students as they are part of the “net gen,” suggesting that generations could really move in such a linear fashion. I think we ought to see increased internet use as a social trend, but not assume that students today are just inherently different. We can have the same expectations, as when we uphold those, students WILL perform as they have done generations prior.

    • Blanca Says:

      I have problems with the writing-IT analogy. I agree that digital natives are not developed writers, nor IT literate students. But I do not think that we should put both skills at the same level: writing is the basic means to express organized, critical thinking, opinions, and feelings. IT is a platform for that writing. Writing is integrated into courses of all disciplines because it is indispensable for communication; however, IT is not essential… yet. In addition, I understand that we may want to integrate IT in our class if a specialized application is closely related to our course or to the future of our students (PPT for marketing students, CAT tools to translation students, etc.); but I would not see the point in devoting time in a general Spanish course to a deeper understanding of audio/video embedding in PPTs or dynamic tables in Excel, simply because it does not add enough value to be worth it. Sometimes simpler is better.

  3. celeste2010 Says:

    Creativity might be one of the keys crossing and connecting technology and teaching.
    In a language class, technology might be used for developing new material, as using VoiceThread or Bubblr. But sometimes the issue it’s not only using a new tool just because we are doing what we’ve done on paper before and now on the computer. It may also contain a creative component which can be that the student may find out that learning to use this new tool can add a plus of inspiration to his/her work. For example, using Bubblr to create a story: to develop a plot, to think of characters, to write the dialogues, to give it a beginning and ending but using other people pictures like Flickr photos or existing pictures. Maybe this new story would be different that one they would create on paper, I underline different not better. By this, thinking technology tools as a different way, maybe a new way to do the same activity that may add this plus of curiosity that may lead to creativity and that also may lead to more engagement of the student.

  4. Blanca Says:

    I think the results of the research in Chapter 7 completely reflect the reality of my students. If I asked my students, I would probably have the same results as in Table 1 (although I would increase the number in “Chatting with friends or acquaintances…” because they do not stop texting even during the class!). These results seem to me the proof that we are still trying to incorporate technology to the class but in a traditional way. The research shows that students spend almost the same time using word processors as doing classroom activities and studying using an electronic device. The question is: what kind of classroom activities are they doing? Are they just using electronic devices to study because the professors put the information on a digital platform and they just retrieve it? My impression is that those activities they do are not usually collaborative or creative; they probably are as our on-line workbook and labbook (hated both by students and instructors). In fact, all the creativity is at the bottom of this table and that probably means something. Students are still recipients of knowledge through technology, which adds little more than just convenience. I do not want you to misinterpret me: I do not agree with the assertion “doing is more important than knowing”, I still think there is basic knowledge that we should have and that is not reachable (or is more complicated to reach) just doing, there are things to be studied and memorized. However, depending on the subject of study, there are other approaches that could be taken and that could take a great advantage of the collaborative tools new technologies offer.

    Regarding the question “When considering your future students does it make pedagogical sense to replicate the kind of learning experiences the Net Gen has apparently participated in or is there something to be said for a ‘traditional’ college approach?”, I do think that, the more we adapt everything to the previous knowledge and experience of the learners, they more comfortable and motivated they will feel, what will probably reflect on an improved learning. Nevertheless, I keep on thinking that when adapting so much, we are preventing students from developing other skills and somehow maturing. Maybe we are protecting them too much and not preparing them to the “cruelty” of real world. Just to illustrate it, here you have something Robert Chudy, director of the Department of International Services and Programs, has e-mailed today:
    “Bill Gates, the founder of Micro-Soft, had some strong thoughts about working in America as he was addressing an audience of American students. Here are some of his thoughts:
    Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it!
    Rule 2: The world doesn’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
    Rule 3: If you think your teacher was tough, wait till you get a boss.
    Rule 4: If you mess up, don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
    Rule 5: Your school may have done away with winners and losers but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they abolish failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This does not bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
    Rule 6: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.”

  5. kemen528 Says:

    With regards to my experiences and what Robert B. Kvavik writes in “Convenience, Communications, and Control,” I have to say that I would have to slightly disagree with the statement “These students possess unprecedented levels of skill with information technology,”which I think is reflected on later on in the Chapter when the study finds that other than word-processing skills, the student’s skill levels in other aspects of technology are rather weak. My experiences of using technology in the classroom definitely supports these findings. I find that when students are asked to tailor technology to a specific subject, an instructor really starts to see the weaknesses between the contemporary student and her or his knowledge of technology. For example, many of my students have problems composing a Spanish essay using Microsoft Word because they do not know how to insert symbols for accents, etc. An instructor must never assume that because their students lives are more intertwined with technology than her or his own student life was, they know more about technology. This is greatly reflected in this chapter’s studies, which finds that most of the students used technology for recreational use. Basically, with my experience in the classroom I found that when an instructor asks a student to go above and beyond with a technological tool, the student runs into problems and needs assistance because they are not used to using technology for a specific purpose other than recreational use. Another example: When I asked my students to give PowerPoint presentations with sound bytes and mini-videos, they had no idea how to insert this media into their slides. I would like to switch that pie chart shown on the article from it shown in the classroom for mere convenience to it used for a learning revolution, as is suggested in the reading.

  6. sarahmelvine Says:

    The results in Table 1 of Oblinger’s 2004 study do not exactly match my own experiences in higher education. Of course, these results are now 6 years old, which is almost an entire generation’s time span considering the accelerated pace of change in internet use just in the past couple of years. I would say that now, if one were to re-conduct this study, we would find that the number one activity for which college students which use the internet would overwhelmingly be social networking. At the time that this study was conducted, Facebook and Myspace were just gaining recognition, and I know that for myself in 2004, as a college senior, I hardly even knew what these were. It is unbelievable how much those numbers have shifted in recent years, to the point that I even feel alienated in comparison to my students today for my lack of Web 2.0 savvy.

    As teaching through “information technology” is presented in this article, only 30 percent of students prefer a heavy use of technology in the classroom; many even felt that it was a hindrance to learning if improperly implemented. I think that this suggests that our “traditional” approach to education does not need to change, but it is always useful to be aware of new technologies and how they might enhance our pedagogy. But using these tools just for the sake of novelty is not going to necessarily make us better educators; I think that the basic tools for effective teaching are still relevant and appreciated by students. I don’t think that there necessarily needs to be a false binary of either/or between “traditional” and “technological.” I don’t believe that there is any reason why a traditional classroom (as in, not an online or correspondence course) cannot be integrated into newer approaches using internet tools. I don’t think people have essentially changed, and what makes a good teacher has not completely transformed in a decade, but it is definitely important to be open to new ways of presenting material.

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