I always thought of myself as a sort of pioneer in incorporating new technologies in my classroom. Early on, in my teaching career at USFQ, I introduced the use of computer-based simulation games in my marketing courses. I also perceived, and incorporated, the benefits of using Learning Management Systems (LMS) to enhance the teaching and learning experiences in my face-to-face classes. My students adjusted quickly and took advantage of the capacities of WebCT, at that time, and, now, Desire2Learn (D2L). Moreover, this fall semester I started using Top Hat Monocle, a student response system, as means to increase student participation in my courses at Conestoga College, via the “live” use of mobile phones, tablets and laptops during class time.
As a result, I have purposely blurred the boundaries of my face-to-face classroom, and increasingly morphed it into a virtual one. Nevertheless, I know all of these efforts are not enough nowadays. In the book, Lessons from the Virtual Classroom: The Realities of Online Teaching, Rena Palloff and Keith Pratt indicate: “digital-age students want an active learning experience that is social, participatory and supported by social media.” Thus, I realize that I should consider the use of other social media tools in my classroom, based on Chickering and Gamson’s Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, including:
Encourages student–faculty contact
Even though my students know that they can reach me via the email feature on D2L, and call or send a text message to my mobile, in case of what I call academic emergencies, I perceive social media can further improve contact, not only during the semester but later on. In this regard, LinkedIn looks promising as I can accompany the professional development of my students, and be available for consultation and recommendations.
Encourages cooperation among students
Discussion forums on D2L have helped me foster collaboration. No longer students have the excuse of not being able to physically meet to advance in their group assignments. Moreover, Wiki pages have been valuable in promoting asynchronous cooperation.
Encourages active learning, and gives prompt feedback
Active learning engages students in two aspects – doing things and thinking about the things they are doing. Outside class, my students engage in a series of activities that promote higher-order thinking. In class, besides using Top Hat Monocle or LectureTools, I see Twitter as a tool that could encourage active learning, especially among introverted students less prone to publicly contribute to discussions and exercises. Students using Twitter in class can also benefit from receiving prompt feedback to their comments and questions, as well as providing it to their fellow students.
Respects diverse talents and ways of learning
Palloff and Pratt state “personalized learning spaces allow students to create learning experiences by accessing and engaging in learning communities across the globe and piecing together learning that is meaningful to them.” Moreover, research shows that students are already choosing social media tools in the formation of their own personalized learning environments (PLEs), especially through the use of Facebook and Twitter. Thus, I could create the conditions for students to commit to, and develop, their own learning paths based upon agreed learning outcomes.
A group of isolated tactics does not constitute sound strategy. Likewise, the scattered use of social media tools, and technologies, does not replace sound instructional design.
Remember that today students are digital residents and I am a digital visitor compared to their social media behaviour. Thus, I need to jump into using other social media as I did into the sea to learn scuba diving (i.e. you can not learn it without getting wet).
PELs are scary as they increasingly shift the control from the teacher to the student, but then again, that is what learner-centered is all about. Right?
It seems that social media is contributing to generate, in learning, a similar shift of control as the one occurring, in business, between organizations and customers.
Submitted by: John Andrade – SMBP student University of Waterloo. To contact the author of this entry please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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