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Rethinking the Social Media-Centric Classroom 81

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.

  • Wired magazine? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Threni ( 635302 ) on Sunday February 12, 2012 @04:47PM (#39013225)

    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.

  • 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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 12, 2012 @06:15PM (#39013909)

    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 already bitched aobut hte online classes and mya ss is going to get fired if I figure that shit out. The big difference, though, is the feedback loop. With 25 in the class, the lecturer can see the "what the fuck" look on people's faces. Not so much with a video camera. Yes, they do that. Good lecturers do it in a hall of 100. Shitty ones fail when lecturing one on one. But, youtube will fail every single fucking time.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire