Wednesday, May 7, 2008

No more teachers' dirty looks...

Students carry a lot of technology with them wherever they go, including into the classroom. Because these technologies -- such as iPods, computers, cell phones -- can serve as distractions from what is instructionally happening in the classroom, many faculty are requiring that students turn everything off at the start of class. What a loss! Instead, my suggestion is to find ways to use students' technology in ways that serve the objectives of the class. Here are a few ideas (Note: I suggest you have students in small groups, so that there is the potential for a more balanced distribution of technology...because, even though it may feel like it, not all students are carrying technology):
  • In small groups, have students answer a set of challenging questions (or complete a scavenger hunt), allowing them to use their computers (to look things up via static sites, or by accessing an online community of practice) and cell phones (to phone a friend).

  • In small groups, have students use their technology to locate the most unique response to a question, or a current news item that is related to the topic.

  • Set up an IM address for the course. Periodically, ask student groups a question and have them IM their response to your IM address. Report out what groups are sharing.

  • Set up an IM address for the course, and have it on during all classes to enable students to ask questions during lectures.

  • Set up a wiki for the topic being covered in class (or throughout the week, depending on the course schedule). Explain to students that the group will collaboratively create a summary of the topic at hand. A few times during the class session, have student groups access the wiki and update it to reflect what has been covered and discussed so far. By the end of the class session, the wiki can serve as a collaboratively developed set of class notes (for the lecture, discussion, lab, and/or activity/project).

  • Create short podcasts (or locate relevant, pre-existing podcasts) related to the topic at hand. Have students download the podcasts to their iPods or computers prior to class. In class, present students with an activity (e.g., a case study) that requires them to access a variety of online resources, including one or more of the podcasts you created or made available.

  • In small groups, have students search their iPods for a song that lyrically reflects what the class is covering, and prepare to share the song and their rationale for how it is related to the current class topic.

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