.. if that’s your thing…

It’s totally UD‘s thing… She can’t get enough of the genre. Favorite plot points from her latest can’t-put-it-down:

Then a frustrated colleague approached him after one of his [go-tech-in-the-classroom] talks: “I implemented your idea, and it just didn’t work,” Mr. Wesch was told. “The students thought it was chaos.”

It was not an isolated incident. As other professors he met described their plans to follow his example, he suspected their classes would also flop. “They would just be inspired to use blogs and Twitter and technology, but the No. 1 thing that was missing from it was a sense of purpose.”

Chapter Two: A Sense of Purpose and How to Get It.

It doesn’t matter what method you use if you do not first focus on one intangible factor: the bond between professor and student.

… “PowerPoint [says a technophobe master teacher] takes away, I think, from a true engagement…”

Exactly how he connects with a roomful of students is unclear to him, but he senses that it happens.

… “The messenger, ironically enough, is more important than the message,” he says. “If the messenger is excited and passionate about what they have to say, it leaves a good impression. It stimulates students to see what all this excitement is about.”

Messenger… Oh, you mean professor! But that’s medieval, authoritarian, fascistic, you really have control issues, don’t you… Standing up there being all I KNOW SHIT, Il Duce strutting about telling people things instead of leaving them alone to teach themselves and the people sitting next to them. No, the thing to do is step aside, shut up, let them fiddle with the technology, drop by their desk and glance at their screen occasionally, say a few encouraging words… Or if you really want to communicate excitement and passion, turn out the lights and stand very still with your head down and read words on your computer screen that someone else wrote.  Sizzle!

The things that make a good teacher are difficult — if not impossible — to teach, he thinks. Which is why technology may be so attractive to some teaching reformers. Blogging, Twitter, and other digital tools involve step-by-step processes that can be taught….

Think of it in terms of our country’s pill obsession. Americans are determined to believe that you can use fast mass-manufactured substitutes to achieve slow human things.

Technology rarely plays more than a passing role in the work of teacher-of-the-year winners, says Mary Huber, a consulting scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching who has overseen the judging process since 1991. “We see people making interesting use of technology without it being the star player,” she told me.

She said it is not too surprising that others have had trouble replicating what Mr. Wesch did. “None of this work is off-the-shelf,” she said, noting that the group promotes a “scholarly approach” to teaching. “That means you aren’t just picking something and plopping it in there, but you’re really thinking through what its value is and what you would have to do to change it.”

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  1. dmf Says:

    “The things that make a good teacher are difficult — if not impossible — to teach” is sadly right and extends to beyond learning to teach to just about every other project/profession which makes one wonder about the task of teaching/training and how well we understand what makes people really good at what they do.

  2. david foster Says:

    “In (an anthropology class), some 200 students designed their own imaginary cultures and ran a world-history simulation by sending updates via Twitter and a voice-to-text application called Jott.”

    Running a simulation could be an interesting part of many kinds of classes, maybe even this one (if we really believe it would be possible to develop a meaningful simulation model of a culture, even as a wild approximation)…but why on earth would you want to do it via Twitter and voice-to-text? Such a simulation would seem most meaningful if conducted over a concentrated and definite time period, ideally in a single place, not as random multitasking over the course of a week or whatever. Seems like the objective was to throw in as many current technologies as possible in the hope that these would arouse student interest.

  3. aek Says:

    Late to the party, but I just ran across this. It might meet the definitions of both technotrash and technolust.

  4. Margaret Soltan Says:

    aek: LOL. also: “nood slide of my prof’s wife” – LOL.

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