Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Messing with the Boundaries between Play and Work

A commentator on a previous post made a very astute observation about the students in our high school and university classrooms these days: they are more wired than any previous generation; they frequently have multiple devices with internet connectivity; they download all manner of things and watch all manner of things from a variety of internet sources.  And yet it is this same generation of students who struggle to use course management systems effectively (and, often, simply avoid engagement whenever possible).  They will discuss things, but only on Facebook and only if it is an "unofficial" page (i.e. a group that does not include the instructor).  Official course discussion boards (in my class it is Piazza) become a Q&A site.  This is still a huge time-saver in that I am not answering the same question over and over again via email, but it's disappointing that I can't entice them to want to discuss course material unless I attach a grade to their participation.  Finally, some of them are furious that they are expected to watch pre-recorded, short (15-20 min.) lectures outside of class.  The same students who will watch hours of Netflix TV on their computers rebel when asked to watch a few hours/week of recorded lectures.

Many of us educators think we are doing such a cool thing by reaching our students in "their" language, technology.  But I wonder if, in fact, what we are doing is violating their boundaries.  These may well be boundaries that they themselves are not even aware they have.  I wonder if, in making videos and adapting various social media to have educational functions, we are basically taking their sources of play away.  In some basic sense, we are getting into their space and taking it over, draining it of fun and relaxation and re-investing it with purpose and grade anxiety and all the rest.  Now, I don't think we should stop using technology and social media for education; but it might help us understand their reluctance to engage with the education-version of things that they use every day in their lives if we can figure out what it is about, say, you-tube videos for class that causes them to demand a traditional, sage of the stage classroom. 

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