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Rethinking the Social Media-Centric Classroom 81

Posted by timothy
from the cognitive-dissonance dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Michael Wesch has been on the lecture circuit for years touting new models of active teaching with technology. The associate professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University has given TED talks. Wired magazine gave him a Rave Award. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching once named him a national professor of the year. But now Mr. Wesch finds himself rethinking the fundamentals of teaching after hearing that other professors can't get his experiments with Twitter and YouTube to work in their classes. Is the lecture best after all?"
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Rethinking the Social Media-Centric Classroom

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  • There is no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NEDHead (1651195) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @04:42PM (#39013193)

    One best thing. Every subject taught, every student taught, every portion of each learning experience is different. To try and force one approach is to deny the variability of the participants and the subject matter. Passion is the only universal secret sauce.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      If there actually was one best thing, I'd be willing to bet my entire savings that it was not social media related.

  • Wired magazine? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Threni (635302)

    That's the yardstick of credibility these days? It's a piece of shit that just makes stuff up if the truth isn't exciting enough. Check out the Raspberry Pi site for more details.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by icebike (68054) *

      That's the yardstick of credibility these days? It's a piece of shit that just makes stuff up if the truth isn't exciting enough. Check out the Raspberry Pi site for more details.

      Read story
      Get incensed about source
      Get distracted
      Post rushed reply to wrong story
      Priceless!

      • by Threni (635302)

        You need to work on your English comprehension. It's rather obvious that this is the right story, what with it being the one which has Wired as a source.

        • Perhaps you need to work on your comprehension? The source is the Chronicle of Higher Education, not Wired. Wired gets a passing mention because they gave this guy an award. But they have nothing to do with the article beyond that.
          • by Threni (635302)

            So you've spotted the Wired reference in the summary then, and understand why I took issue with Slashdot using an award they've bestowed on someone as being meaningful in any way?

            • The summary was taken practically verbatim from the first paragraph of the article. Slashdot has nothing to do with that reference. I didn't say you commented on the wrong story, but this has absolutely nothing to do with Wired beyond your having dragged Wired into the discussion.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by biohazard35 (2499308)
      For the people who don't want to find what he's talking about, here's the comment from Raspberry Pi about wired:

      Ha – no, that was something else entirely. Wired asked us to give them a copy of our BOM. We told them we couldn’t do that because it’d land us in hot water with our suppliers (particularly Hynix and Broadcom); if their other customers were to use our BOM to demand similar pricing, we’d be in trouble. So instead, they *made up* a BOM (which was gratuitously wrong). They tol

    • Here is the comment from Liz for anyone else wondering where [raspberrypi.org] it was:
      (by the way, BOM means Bill of Materials)

      Ha – no, that was something else entirely. Wired asked us to give them a copy of our BOM. We told them we couldn’t do that because it’d land us in hot water with our suppliers (particularly Hynix and Broadcom); if their other customers were to use our BOM to demand similar pricing, we’d be in trouble. So instead, they *made up* a BOM (which was gratuitously wrong). They told us they were doing this, and we asked them not to; saying we’d be happier for no article to appear at all. They published it anyway. Our suppliers started getting calls from their other customers, as predicted; we had a lot of apologising to do.

      Slightly less serious, but still damned annoying: Wired also demanded pictures of a cased version of the final board. This was well before Christmas, at which point we didn’t *have* any beta or final boards, still less any cased ones (the cases are being finished after the board themselves are finished at the end of this month). They didn’t take no for an answer, and kept asking, and asking, and askingand then photoshopped a case onto an alpha board (wrong size, wrong proportions) for their magazine. Which is misleading, but it’s nothing like as damaging as their efforts with the BOM were.

      Needless to say, they’re off the list for press samples, and they’re not getting any more interviews either (they ran Rob ragged in preparation for this, then never used any of the material they’d got from him). Wired seem to believe they’re still as relevant as they were in 1998. Luckily for us, they’re not; we’ve interacted with hundreds of journalists over the last six months or so, and not a single one of them has been as hard to work with as Wired were.

  • by owlnation (858981) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @04:50PM (#39013255)
    I doubt lectures are better. I've no idea why Professors are finding it doesn't work -- I suspect ineptitude, indolence/a lack of will, and/or a lack of communication skills.

    Many lectures are held with about 300 people sitting half-asleep in one room. On average they probably pay attention for the first 10 minutes, and maybe a few other minutes on and off through the hour. Most do not ask questions.

    How can that possibly be better than to have the same information imparted via a video or audio show, which they can 1. Pause, 2. Rewind, and 3. Watch at a time when they are fully ready to concentrate? Especially since they will have the ability to email, facebook, or twat questions -- and may even have questions after fully taking in the entire lecture.

    Leave face time for labs and tutorials, forget lectures -- they are a relic of the middle-ages, along with the need to have term and vacation times that match the harvests.

    I suspect that most objections to this are just stubbornness, laziness and fear of change. (Which also translates to fear of losing cash in Uni depts -- there really is far less reason for students to pay vast sums to go daily to over-large college buildings any more, nor reside in them either. And since Education is really a racket that's all about money, that's a reason to fear change.)
    • by icebike (68054) * on Sunday February 12, 2012 @05:02PM (#39013325)

      How can that possibly be better than to have the same information imparted via a video or audio show, which they can 1. Pause, 2. Rewind, and 3. Watch at a time when they are fully ready to concentrate? Especially since they will have the ability to email, facebook, or twat questions -- and may even have questions after fully taking in the entire lecture.

      Probably at least the male students are in fact more concerned with twat questions, and have very little time in which they are fully ready to concentrate.

    • tech / new ways and college don't mix that well

      One example he has seen: a professor whose first comment on a student's blog is, "Hey, great ideas here, but just so you know, there are a few typos there in your first line." To Mr. Wesch, that sends the message that the blog is just another spot watched by the grammar police, rather than a new arena to explore. "Students can all sniff out an inauthentic place of learning," the professor argues. "They think, If it's a game, fine, I'll play it for the grade, bu

    • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @05:34PM (#39013541)

      The short answer is that while it's true students may be half asleep, left to do the work entirely on their own, most of them don't. Or at least not until it's too late. Even if the students only half pay attention, they are adding their own notes to the lectures, augmenting their copy of the powerpoint with what you say (fill in the blank power points work remarkably well, where the student fills in the answers during the lecture), but when it comes time to study the notes they're relearning the material, not learning from scratch.

      It shouldn't surprise anyone that in a profession that is ~40% about your ability to lecture, you'd have a bunch of people who are good at giving lectures that students understand and find engaging. And those same people trying to completely change what they do doesn't always work. This guy, who is essentially researching experiments in teaching may be good at it because first, he's tried a few beginning steps and knows how to use that to control the classroom, even if he didn't realize it was important. Students might also like it because of the novelty of 'lets try this' or because what he did maps particularly well to the problem he's trying to solve. But trying to use twitter in a classroom needs to map to a particular problem you're trying to solve, trying to do ODE's where everyone starts tweeting about which DE they are isn't going to actually teach you anything about solving DE's. Tutorial exist to reinforce what is in lectures, not to replace them. Sometimes (especially in first year) there isn't much difference, because a lot of the lectures are just an effort to make sure everyone has the same background, since every province, state, country etc. are different.

      The era of 'chalk' is mostly gone, but where it served a purpose it still does. If you're doing math, explaining what you're writing, why you're writing it, in a slow deliberate fashion is conveying that information.

      Keep in mind that a large part of what universities are is accreditation bodies and places of research. The people who teach need to actually do this stuff on a day to day basis, and take time out from that to teach it. You need to make sure that everyone with a degree in CS, or who has taken 3rd year programming languages has gotten a particular experience. Sure, you can spend 36 hours watching lectures from some other universities, but how do you know what from that is important (no assignments after all), how do you demonstrate that you learned it? On your own trying to solve real problems you need to know what you're trying to use to solve a problem. It's been a while since I took programming languages, but I know what a logic language is enough to know if I have a problem to solve that might use it. A physicist may have vaguely heard something about what logic languages are, but has no actual sense of how to use a logic language to solve a problem (this sort of thing happens a lot to physicists because they're expected to be programmers, but then they get almost no formal training in CS, and so they don't know languages or algorithms or automated software testing well, all of which would be super handy). Yes, you *can* learn all of these things on your own, from wikipedia or from some videos, but you need to know what you're looking for. The great strength of wikipedia is that it immediately connects you to connected information, which also lets you get easily distracted. I'm not sure about the US, but at least in canada, our graduation rates and times are carefully monitored. If you aren't getting kids out the door in whatever average, I think it's about 4.5 years for 4 year programme, they start doing extra reviews of what you're up to and so on, and, eventually, if you can't reasonably get people completed on time, you can't take on students and your programme disappears. That's rare, because there are a lot of things you can do to fix it, and there's some fairly complicated analysis that goes into determining how a programme is doing.

      Being able to pause a

    • education is a racket to make money, and this guy -- not a teacher, much less an experienced one, by any stretch of the imagination -- proposing twitter and youtube is the saviour? lol?

    • by pz (113803) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @05:50PM (#39013715) Journal

      Lectures are marvelous, if you, the student, has put in enough effort to be able to actually concentrate for a full hour. I've taught a lot. I've won awards for my teaching. I often brag that if I was able to teach my non-mathematically inclined cousin enough algebra to get a B in his college course (we were the same age at the time, so perhaps tutoring is a better term), I can teach just about anyone just about anything. The key is that the student must be motivated.

      So, why are lectures good for that? If you can watch a video of a lecture at any point, most students aren't going to bother, or are going to put off watching until the last possible second. When they watch the video, they can be easily distracted by phone calls, tweets, pulling out their phone to surf something else that came into their head, their roommates coming home, their dogs needing to go for a walk, whatever. When you're in lecture (at least one of my lectures), such distractions do not happen. Distractions make learning impossible. Having a live lecture that happens at a given time and at no other, means students must arrange their schedules to be there. A few will make even more effort and will be awake and prepared. I make it clear in my lectures that everyone is expected to be that way: awake and prepared. I call on people, even in the big lecture halls. I'm tough. I expect a lot, I assign a ton of work, and I grade hard. But students learn, and learn a tremendous amount.

      Although I can teach, such lectures aren't for everyone, clearly. I don't hand-hold, unless the student absolutely requires it, and then only in a one-on-one session ... and usually that brief hand-holding jumpstarts the students out of their overwhelmed haze and they do pretty well.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Let's put it in engineer terms. Lectures have a feedback loop. I'm goign through a professional class rihgt now,with a bunch of New Guys. I was transfered laterally into the job, have blown through the online courses and not learned a damn thing about it. That was a waste of 80 syllabus hours, and about 15 clickthing through and grep'ing the test answers.

        However, without me verbalizing anything in class, I'm learning the same material. Probably, some of it is prior exposure. However, motivation it ain't. I

      • Lectures like you describe may work well or be essential for poorly motivated ans easily distracted students (see John Holt or John Taylor Gatto about that) who are jumping through career hoops, but in a different paradigm, systemic needs might be different. The central issue is that most schools are not primarily educatioanl instituions first, whatever they call themselves, and most students are not at schools to get a real education (whatever they say).

        That said, if I was back in college, I'd probably wan

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Do you actually teach? Most lectures are at least somewhat interactive. The lecturer takes cues from the audience and the audience can usually ask questions. You lose all that watching a video.

      If the lecturer is poor, a video of that lecture is also going to be poor. But very few lecturers are actually so poor that they completely miss all cues from their audience.

      A lot of the gimmicks people have thought up to replace or liven up lectures really do need to be thought out. Things like clickers - I've f

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        I think it has rational thought, from the people who are investing in social media anyway. Just like Apple who used to advocate useless computers in elementary schools and ended up with unused Apple IIs in warehouses, the point is to sell stuff to clueless schools and frightened parents.

      • Do you actually teach? Most lectures are at least somewhat interactive. The lecturer takes cues from the audience and the audience can usually ask questions.

        The interactive part of a lecture is usually small, otherwise it'd be a tutorial.

        If you could get the noninteractive part out of the way with videos or even reading, that frees up the lecturer's time to go through the bits the students are struggling with.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Interaction doesn't have to be question and answer. A reasonable lecturer takes cues from the audience. Even poor lecturers can usually tell if the audience is lost, falling asleep, or walking out. Most people are also better lecturers in front of a class. Put them on video and watch a weak lecturer turn into a horrible one.

          When I was in university a long time ago nobody had thought of video (oh, yes, they had, and it sucked), but the professors all had recommended readings that should be done before th

    • I doubt lectures are better. I've no idea why Professors are finding it doesn't work -- I suspect ineptitude, indolence/a lack of will, and/or a lack of communication skills.

      Many lectures are held with about 300 people sitting half-asleep in one room. On average they probably pay attention for the first 10 minutes, and maybe a few other minutes on and off through the hour. Most do not ask questions.

      How can that possibly be better than to have the same information imparted via a video or audio show, which they can 1. Pause, 2. Rewind, and 3. Watch at a time when they are fully ready to concentrate? Especially since they will have the ability to email, facebook, or twat questions -- and may even have questions after fully taking in the entire lecture.

      The real problem here is that teaching manuals are inadequate, and teacher training courses are in adequate. I've done a 4-week course in teaching English to foreigners, and what I noticed was that everything taught to me was superficial. I was told about various types of teaching techniques, methods, and tasks. I was told how to deliver and present them, but never was it explained to me why I should use a technique -- how to choose one. Never was I taught how to build a task from the ground up so that i

      • I know exactly what you are talking about, and I've seen it a lot. Teachers in academia (especially research universities) often don't receive a great deal of training in adult education. The stereotype is that they are specialists in their field first, and educators second. Some decent educators do emerge, but not often. Teaching universities are better at this, but

        Compare this to the training that most youth educators receive and it seems silly. Especially when you consider that transition that youn

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Many lectures are held with 30 people attending who are paying attention. Lectures can work, and lectures can fail. You can't treat them all the same. The "social media" approaches will likely fail too, and sometimes they will mysteriously against all odds succeed.

      The number one determination of success in college is with the student, not the professor.

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      The reason lectures continue is simply cost. Everyone who has ever spent time in higher education knows labs and tutorials are where the real learning occurs (as long as they are managed properly). The lecture is simply a means by which to distribute a major cost over many students.

      For all the good lectures provide they might as well be a video. So schools can more carefully produce high quality video lectures that are simply downloaded and viewed. All produced during school breaks.

      During the education

    • Cost is a main reason for teaching one to many.

      Videoing decent presentations (rather than a professor messing around with a cheap web cam) also costs (equipment, recording and editing staff), so probably is more expensive to run initially than teaching lectures in big halls.

      Getting people together in one space probably has other pedagogical values - though you are correct it is possible to have distance based university level education, e.g. The Open University [open.ac.uk]. Even the Open University tries to find group

  • The only way to teach your students is by subjecting them to routine beatings and starvation. Any uranium-harvesting overlord knows this fundamental principle of teaching.
  • by hsthompson69 (1674722) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @04:59PM (#39013311)

    ...have kids watch taped lectures at home, and come to the classroom to do problems and ask questions of the professor in person. Make "homework" "classwork", and make lectures "homework".

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Recently, I scouted out a class that had all of its lectures from the previous year online. I watched a few of them before signing up for the class, and I couldn't stand it -- I couldn't focus my attention on them, and sometimes even started nodding off. I took the class anyway and loved it. If I had a class that revolved around watching lectures online, I'd drop it, and if I was in a program where online lectures were the only option, I'd have to transfer or quit school.

      Normally, I'd argue that cl

      • I watched a few of them before signing up for the class, and I couldn't stand it -- I couldn't focus my attention on them, and sometimes even started nodding off.

        Did you ever nod off in class?

        the lectures really were irreplaceable and at least half the material was new every year.

        What kind of class was it that required new material every year? iOS programming?

        God, even just writing that reminds me of the intense boredom of watching educational videos (and yes, I've seen Khan Academy).

        I'm not sure if I

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Yeah, people seem to think that's a new idea. Teachers have ALWAYS assigned readings to be completed before class. Does everyone do them? Not a chance. An organized lecture with questions taken during the lecture is much more effective.

      • Actually, I think that's debatable - my bet is that you're going to get more drop off during a lecture than failure to actually watch a lecture video on your own time, complete with fast forward and rewind, but I'd be open to see actual data to back up either option.

        It may be that assigned readings might be more difficult for some folk who aren't very adept at learning by reading, than watching a lecture, but I think in the end it all comes down to personal responsibility. In the end, it is the student's r

    • Current system: professor gives lectures to a group of students, and the students can ask for clarification as he continues. Students requiring more in-depth explanation can utilize the professor's office hours. Students are given small activities to do on their own initiative to help them discover holes in their learning and to test their progress.

      Your system: if a student doesn't understand a lecture, he's screwed. Classtime problems don't help him at all because -- according to you -- if he doesn't

      • professor gives lectures to a group of students, and the students can ask for clarification as he continues.

        In a lecture hall of 500, you simply don't have time to get the lecture done, and even answer a single question from 1/10th of the audience.

        Students requiring more in-depth explanation can utilize the professor's office hours

        That begs a few questions - 1) lmgtfy.com and 2) just how many students can a single professor see during office hours? Scalability is a harsh mistress.

        Your system: if a student

        • The 500-person classes (incidentally the same ones that could be learned through google) probably don't need a professor, and sure, you could just distribute taped lectures. But that's not the important part of even a useful undergrad degree; any reasonable institution will have advanced topics classes of much smaller size and much more difficult material, which cannot be effectively learned on one's own. (Over decades? Sure. But that's woefully inefficient.)

          Plenty of classes have grades only from tests

          • But that's not the important part of even a useful undergrad degree; any reasonable institution will have advanced topics classes of much smaller size and much more difficult material, which cannot be effectively learned on one's own.

            Name one. I managed a double major in electrical engineering and computer science without ever seeing a class smaller than 100.

            You appear to be seriously suggesting that there is no benefit from trying to learn a topic from someone who has mastered it.

            I think then I'm not com

  • Please tell me, who hasn't given a TED talk? And how did he condense such a complicated topic into 7 slides?
    • by NEDHead (1651195)

      Simple. He engaged the audience and convinced them that a fun group project would be to create additional slides to fill in the blanks.

  • More like... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blahplusplus (757119) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @05:40PM (#39013617)

    ... rethinking student selection. My god, there are too many people going to school who are not scholastically inclined nor have the work ethic. We instead of created a culture of stupidity and status seeking based on false promises of what can be expected out of an 'education'.

  • Pioneers tend to put a lot of energy into it to make it work. This applies not only to social media experiments in the classroom,teaching with technology has since decades proven to be tough for teachers. Before changing a teaching paradigm, one has to see whether it works in various setups. Things have to be transferable and sustainable. The factor "teacher" and the amount of supports remains important in education. What works for one teacher can be tough for an other. What works in one institution is impo
  • lack of a a sense of purpose cover other parts of college

    "Mr. Wesch is not swearing off technology—he still believes you can teach well with YouTube and Twitter. But at a time when using more interactive tools to replace the lecture appears to be gaining widespread acceptance, he has a new message. It doesn't matter what method you use if you do not first focus on one intangible factor: the bond between professor and student."

    Tech schools / community colleges have smaller class sizes with better bondi

    • lack of a a sense
      between professor and student." They
      They also have professor who are / have done more real would work
      they have more then just book skills to teach off of.
      Also stuff like loads filler classes
      and a over load
      Now days what is the purpose of not having lot's night / class times that fit in to people who work full time / day jobs. [?]
      4 years + plans why can't college
      so you can say take 1-2 years in the class room maybe
      with on going ongoing education
      Why forced high cost meal plans? I have head of people buying
      Forced room and board now that does data back to the past but now days you can rent own you own for less (for better / newer rooms) and find room mates and save even more.

      I was going to rate you "funny" for all the irony.
      Looks like we should re-examine our elementary & high schools as well... This is truly a 'cry for help' if I've ever seen one. [youtube.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...but I have found lectures to work out better than anything else. I'm a former tech professional now teaching in the humanities, so my lack of interest in social media classrooms has nothing to do with either closed-minded-ness or lack of aptitude with technology. Lectures just tend to work better for me and for every other professor I know. It's not always clear what's going to be grasped quickly, what's going to need more explanation, or even what side issue will grab the attention of the class. Every c

  • by khb (266593) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @06:11PM (#39013887)

    Why is anyone surprised that the quality of the teacher and not the technique is really the high order bit? A great teacher inspires. A good teacher facilitates. Mediocre or worse teachers bore.

    Bored students do poorly.

  • The best way to teach or to learn depends entirely on the individual. This is the second article I have seen on this attempting to figure out the "best" way to teach, yet they never bring up having a variety of learning environments. By having a variety of learning environments, the professors can teach using the method that suits them best, and the students can choose the learning style that suits them best. By attempting to find the best way to teach they also help to undermine the individuals that do not
  • Is the perfect example of this technology based learning failing miserably.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go waste 3 hours on material I already understand battling inconsistent significant figure requirements and badly worded questions.

  • Proving that the most important parts are still the teachers themselves. Technology is just a tool, and as such can be used well, but can also be misused.

    • Proving that the most important parts are still the teachers themselves. Technology is just a tool, and as such can be used well, but can also be misused.

      I think I understand... What you're saying is: "With great response-ability comes great responsibility."
      Seems Legit.

  • So, how about teaching people to learn using text and diagrams. Maybe that could be a useful skill to have...
  • by loufoque (1400831) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @09:24PM (#39015113)

    Stop rethinking the classroom every other day.
    All "classroom rethinkers" ever propose is distracting kids with useless technology.

  • Lack of a sense of purpose cover other parts of college

    "Mr. Wesch is not swearing off technology—he still believes you can teach well with YouTube and Twitter. But at a time when using more interactive tools to replace the lecture appears to be gaining widespread acceptance, he has a new message. It doesn't matter what method you use if you do not first focus on one intangible factor: the bond between professor and student."

    Tech schools / community colleges have smaller class sizes with better bonding

  • This guy is one of the best teachers the old system has to offer, as demonstrated by his awards. He and the old system fit well together. Changing anything is likely to lower his performance. That does not say anything about all those other teachers that may be less 'optimized' for the current system.

    IMHO the most important part of a lecture is that you have to be physically in the same room with no option but to listen to the teacher. Even if you are not focused you will still hear most of what he says.

  • One of my profs used to say a lecture is a method of transmitting information from the teacher's page to the student's without passing through the brain of either.

    He reckoned even a slow reader could read in half an hour what would take an hour to speak out loud.

  • Fuck that noise. It should be perfectly legal -- in fact, *required* -- for teachers/professors to shoot any student found using Facebook in the classroom with a tranqulizer dart.
  • This article is part of a series at The Chronicle of Higher Education, and as the next part of it, we're asking students to share their views on teaching via short video comments. The info: Today, professors are letting students pass virtual notes in class on Twitter. They're trying "clickers" that turn classrooms into game shows. They're videotaping their classes to let students watch lecture reruns to help cram for the test, or share the knowledge with the world on YouTube. They're monitoring how many mi

Testing can show the presense of bugs, but not their absence. -- Dijkstra

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