A study from Stanford Graduate School of Education researchers found that most middle, high school and college students have trouble discerning news articles from advertisements online.
Multiple research studies indicate that students show greater engagement and achievement when they use digital materials available via publishers.
However, please note that the various research studies were all conducted by or for companies peddling digital materials.
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As someone who is currently teaching an online community college class, I found this recent study interesting. I don’t have very much experience at this; in fact, it’s the first time I’ve taught undergraduate courses, the first time I’ve taught community college classes, and the first time I’ve taught a course that was completely online rather than having at least a little face-to-face time. Here are some of my observations so far.
- Some students do a great job! They take the work seriously. They do assignments on time. They read directions and follow them (hurray!).
- Some students do the minimum (or less) and test me to see how I’ll react.
- Some students appear in name only. They are on the roster but never check in, nor do they drop the course. They’re just no shows. In my current class, I have four of these out of 32. Despite sending them several emails to ask what’s up, I’ve had no replies. (Guess I could try giving them a phone call, but have not gone there yet.)
- Teaching online takes a LOT of time! Besides building the course, finding materials, creating assignments that I hope will be interesting and useful but also hold students accountable for what they’re supposed to be learning, there is all the time reviewing what they’ve done and giving individual feedback.
- Some of the students who seem to have the most difficulty are those for whom English is a second language and whose English skills are not yet solid. I have to be very careful in how I write directions or give feedback. I can’t assume knowledge of idioms, for example, that I use without thinking. I tend to have a lot of assignments that ask students to respond in writing, and it sometimes takes a couple exchanges between us before I feel confident I’m correctly “interpreting” the student’s response.
So far, I’m enjoying teaching these courses and trying to find ways to overcome the obstacles of distance learning and take advantage of the strengths. I can easily see, however, that if I were trying to simultaneously teach three or four such classes, I might lose my enthusiasm quickly.
Vialogues is an interesting Web 2.0 tool created at Teachers College. Basically, you watch a video and enter comments as you watch. Your comments and those of other watchers show up on the right side of the screen, time-stamped according to the point in the video when the comment was posted. The comments stream is a bit like a backchannel except comments can be added at any time, not just in real time. Whenever a person enters a comment, even days apart, the comment is placed in the stream according to its time in the video, not it’s actual posting time.
You don’t need any special skills to get started with Vialogues because you can simply use a video from YouTube or Vimeo as the basis for inviting comments. As for resources, obviously you need a computer with audio and video in order to interact (no app for this yet!) if you want to restrict who gets to participate, you have to enter email addresses of the people you want to invite.
The unique advantage of this tool is time-stamping comments, so it’s going to be useful in teaching or training when that’s helpful. In a film-making class, you might have students comment on each other’s projects. A coach might use film of a game and have players watch and comment on what’s happening. In a political science class, students might watch a politician’s speech and comment with questions, observations, identify rhetorical devices, etc.
There are some drawbacks, however. The most serious is that as far as I could tell, the time-stamping feature is not intuitive, at least not to me. My “test” Vialogue was “What really makes you happy?” I noticed that all but the last couple comments were stamped 00:00. I started to watch the video and tried entering my own comments. Even though I did not comment until a minute or so into the movie, my comment got time stamped 00:00. It took quite a bit of trial and error before I figured out how I could make sure my comment was time-stamped accurately, and if I wanted to pause the video while I composed my comment, I had to start the comment, then press pause. I made a short video to show you what I mean.
The other major drawback is that you can only use YouTube or Vimeo videos unless you upload your own. For example, I wanted to use a Ted Talk and have students in my class try out Vialogues, but no can do. So if you want to go beyond YouTube and Vimeo you need to either create your own video or download the video you want from somewhere else and then upload it to Vialogues—and before you do that make sure you have the legal right to do so! Also, it will be difficult to use this in a learning management system, so if you plan to “grade” the comments or even keep track of who commented and who did not, that’s going to require extra work on the instructor’s part.
For most of us, there’s never enough time. Despite what some fans of technology assert, technology does not increase the amount of time at our disposal. It may free up time by helping us accomplish some mundane task faster, or eliminating the need to do it. Yet at the same time, each advance in technology also opens up all kinds of fascinating new options that compete for our attention and our time.
In fact, an argument might be made that because of its ability to offer options, technology uses up any time it frees up because we now spend more time considering options before we can take action. Besides analysis paralysis, I often find myself striken with “technological paralysis”—too many options, plus I know whichever one I might eventually choose will be obsolete and old news in no time, so why bother? Just skip it.
Today, I found this video by Jennifer Aaker, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business. It was refreshing. I especially like the contrast between multitasking and feeling fragmented versus her concept of multiplying which leads to a sense of wholeness and being present. Her description of “multipliers”—activities that accomplish several goals at once—reminds me of what Charlotte Crabtree, one of my favorite UCLA professors, referred to as “powerful” lessons or teaching units. She defined these as ones that accomplished multiple curricular goals or taught several different skills all the same time. I’ve held onto that concept and used it throughout my career, not just in teaching.