About this blog

Students can feel constrained by ways of communicating and learning that seem opaque and fixed because they are permeated with norms never made explicit, knowledge they do not share, or the language of others.

Janette Ryan and Rosemary Viete
Respectful interactions: learning with international students in the English-speaking academy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Frisson in the computer lab - handing over control?

This week, I took my students to one of the campus computer labs - not usually a teaching space - to work on "visualising" the word and idea they had chosen in their groups last week. It is holidays for most of the student intakes, so the lab was relatively empty. The inspiration for this 'visualising process', came from an article by Patricia O'Connor, available at the Visible Knowledge Project Library on the Academic Commons website Here.

This was something I have NEVER done before, and the first problem was keeping them off their Facebook pages - unless, I said to them, one of the ways they might visualise the different aspects of their idea / word was located on their Facebook page.

HOWEVER, there was this fantastic "frisson" (panic??) in my mind and body as I felt control slipping away, and their attention diverted to their personal spaces and "real" lives - and it was very interesting to be at the nexus of that teaching / learning / real-life intersection. I'm still remembering the moment, and thinking about what it means for my approaches.

From all the scholarship I am reading, and information and ideas gained from conversations happening in the education field, and on Twitter's #edchat especially, social media is one of the "social environments" in which today's students of all cultural backgrounds participate. But at the moment, I am unsure how, or in what way, I might integrate social media into my classes. But I am opening the door to see what comes in! And what comes from the students themselves.

It's a process of slow exploration, I think.

But, back to the students. They were all logging into You Tube, Google Images, and some of the Chinese students were using Baidu - the official Chinese search engine, looking (I hope) for resources on their topics in their own languages. I didn't mind this - one thing I'm kind of trying to do is value the cultural and personal knowledge these students bring with them to Australia, and let it have a space that is acknowledged by the teaching "authorities" they encounter.

I went from group to group marvelling at the strange things they had found, and reminding them of the objectives - to teach the class the 'depth' of ideas behind a surface word. I suggested looking for positive and negative connotations, or aspects, to demonstrate the diversity of ways words, and the ideas behind words, can be appreciated.

Next week, we are back in the lab, following up the work they have done collaboratively in the previous week. Most of them were exchanging Facebook info so they could share stuff together, and planning interactive presentations for the class in two weeks time.

Because I am deliberately trying to surrender some control, I've indicated their presentations can be in a format of their own choosing. Each group of three (and one of four) have ten minutes. It will be in the reflection exercise I have planned for after each presentation, where the learning they have achieved will, hopefully, be brought back into the objectives.

What have the students watching learned?
Which pieces of visualised evidence were most helpful in conveying the depth behind the word / idea?
And finally, (because this is a Literature class) has the group tied their exploration to a human story? This can be a real story, or one they have made up together.

My next post will be on something different - a presentation I'm making at the academic staff conference about research trends in International Pedagogy - and the ideas behind constructivist and culturally responsive teaching approaches. It should ruffle some feathers - I think.

I'm now going back to the huge pile of essays from my eight other classes. And it's the weekend too!


O’Connor, Patricia. 2009. “Close reading, Associative Thinking, and Zones of Proximal Development in Hypertext”. In Bass and Eynon. The Difference that Inquiry Makes: A Collaborative Case Study on Technology and Learning, from the Visible Knowledge Project. Academic Commons. Centre for New Designs in learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) at Georgetown University. https://digitalcommons.georgetown.edu/blogs/vkp/library/

1 comment:

  1. Nice posting, Jennifer. I like the thinking behind this: give the students some control, see what they do with it, modify what you do accordingly (if I understand you correctly). The success or failure of this depends on myriad factors, but I suspect the main one will be what kind of relationship you have to your students. If they appreciate what you are doing here, they will reward you. You will know when you see their presentations, if not before. Let us know what happens. Good luck!@paulbrichardson