Conflict of interests: Educational technology edition.

13 03 2012

No, I’m not talking about professors cashing in. I’m talking about the conflict of interests between professors and their students. Educational technology enthusiasts (which, believe it or not, includes me) want the experience in the classroom to transcend allotted classroom time. For example, here’s Kelly J. Baker at Religion in American History explaining one of the advantages her experiment teaching with Twitter:

Posting discussion questions multiple times a week. This lets me check in and see how the reading is going for both classes. What works for them? What needs further explanation? What interests them? What doesn’t? What are they learning? Moreover, it gives me a good sense of what trips them up prior to class, so we can spend time working through more difficult chapters or sections. Hopefully, this improves student performance not in discussion but on writing assignments too.

If you’re going to use Twitter in class, then yeah this is definitely the way to do it.

Yet while professors get enthusiastic about such possibilities, it’s apparent to me that many students don’t. See, for example, Kelli Marshall quoting herself about a similar experiment:

“The first time I required Twitter, 75% of students who filled out written evaluations (not that bubbly scantron part) let me know just how much they hated it.”

At least to me, what she then lists as the unhelpful comments she received on student evaluations demonstrate a clear resentment against Twitter for sucking up their time and attention.

Personally, I’m of the school that Twitter exists only so that I can follow other academics, political stuff and people with shows on the Travel Channel. However, I still think I understand this kind of struggle fairly well based on my own experience trying to get students to blog. While both these folks that I’ve quoted here are on top of the problems that come with transcending class time through social media, I’m thinking I agree most with what Lisa Lane wrote on the post I linked to just above:

I think the blogging has to be what’s graded in the class, or at least the vast bulk of what’s graded. Our most successful teachers who use blogs have it as the core of their course, not a sideline or “discussion”. It IS the work for the class.

Weirdly enough, it’s precisely this kind of drift that may lead us into our glorious all-online future as online time gradually replaces face time. Yet I still think this is the best way to keep you in control of technology rather than let technology control you.

After all, do you want to put in the kind of hours necessary to grade blogs and Tweets along with a substantial number of papers? In my case, the answer with respect blogs is “maybe,” but I have to figure out how to balance my students’ interests against all of mine, including my dedication to teaching and my interest in not losing my mind.




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