Saturday, February 05, 2011

Do Android Students Dream of Electric Blackboard Sheep?

Sharon Marshall's "More Face-to-Face, Less Screen-to-Screen" at the Chronicle really resonated with me and with things I've written on this blog. I found myself wanting to yell, "Preach it!" at statements like this one:
I posted assignments online, and students uploaded their papers from their computers. I experimented with the paperless option, which meant downloading student essays, saving them in a file, using the track-changes tool to give feedback, and then e-mailing the papers back to students. It took many hours, and now that I have learned that reading on a computer screen can be about 25-percent slower than reading on paper, I understand why.

In our discussions, instead of writing their first thoughts about a topic in their notebooks, they recorded those thoughts in a dialogue box online. In the old days, we would read those thoughts aloud from the notebooks. But being citizens of Blackboard meant that—in class or not—we were able to view all of the other responses and papers and give peer feedback online.
"Citizens of Blackboard"--exactly right. Although we're all "citizens," we governors of the electronic CMS states know that the work of government eats great, uncompensated buckets of our time and is even messier than making laws or sausage. (Check out, for example, this hilarious account in the Chronicle forums of creating quizzes in Blackboard.)

Right on schedule, someone in the comments writes that no, no, no, technology is not the problem; it's just that Marshall is not a digital native, don't you see? Android Students love technology. They love Blackboard and Big Brother. Two plus two equals five. (Okay, I made that last part up.)

Can't we say that both things are true?

Here is what you get less of, good and bad, in a techno-enhanced classroom:
  • Paper. Eco-friendly? You bet, as long as you're not counting the electricity and gadgets.
  • Voice conversation.
  • Eye contact.
  • Immediate, spontaneous responses to what others have written, which helps to foster ideas and get class discussion going.
Here is what you get more of, good and bad, in a techno-enhanced classroom:
  • Writing.
  • Written conversational responses, especially by those known in classes everywhere as "the quiet ones."
  • Time spent (by the teacher) on managing the gadgetry and listening to complaints when the gadgetry doesn't work.
Here is what I would like to see: more acknowledgment from techno-enthusiasts in positions of administrative power that those who see two sides to this issue are not Deadwood Bumps in the Shining Path of Educational Progress.


Carl said...

Yup. Completely agree.

Clio Bluestocking said...

Preach it!

undine said...

Thanks, Carl, and Clio Bluestocking!