Technology in our classroom: does it help or distract?

There are certainly different types of view on the usage of technology or the extent of allowable usage time of electronic devices (laptop or cellphones) in the classrooms. Although the use of technology is becoming more and more prevalent nowadays, there are instructors which make policies (like no mobile phone use) as they find it respectful to the instructor and other students.

As someone who is more on the side of advocating technology use in class, I must admit there are disadvantages associated with the technology use. Especially, in situations where we lose interest in following a lecture (or find it boring for whatever reason), then it becomes more and more tempting to check Facebook, Instagram, or do some online shopping. Given the appealing nature of these social media, we might get completely disconnected from the class and that’s where this could be a major challenge for the instructor to tackle. On the other hand, I believe there are many positive sides as well. There have been many situations for me when the instructor brings a new subject (or a terminology) which I was not aware of before and googling about them showed to a quick way for me to get the needed information.

 

In my opinion, as technology gets more and more advanced, its role in our classrooms would be more highlighted in the future and strict policies fro forbidding technology use might not be the best idea. Therefore, I believe establishing some rules for technology use would be a possible solution to avoid distraction. For example, using devices once in a while would be acceptable and helpful unless it becomes frequent.

Teaching philosophy and interactive environment for efficient learning

We have taken many classes at college with completely different teaching settings. Most of us have taken classes where the instructor is the only speaker, giving hours of discussions session after session (could be boring, right?). In opposite, we might have probably taken other classes where students get confused and overwhelmed as they are responsible to engage in many class activities without getting enough background by the instructor to do the tasks!

 

In my opinion, in the first scenario, many students become reluctant to learn the material and might be engaged in doing irrelevant activities in class (checking social media!), especially if the instructors are not highly skilled in providing a good narration in their lecture. On the other hand, in the second scenario, although students could be more engaged (as they have to!), they might feel lost in the discussion and get unconfident about their performance.

 

As someone who’s thinking of teaching in the future (therefore, needing a teaching philosophy/direction), I think there should be a trade-off between these two. Specifically, it would be useful if the instructor provides a good overview of the topic in the classroom at the beginning, go through some examples with student together and engage them in the discussion, and then ask them to engage in more challenging activities to encourage creative thinking by the students.

 

Although I have relatively low teaching experience, using the above approach worked well for me at the first sight. Last year, I was teaching a session which required a lot of hands-on experience and computer modeling with a software. I started with some introduction about the topic and doing some examples myself. Next, I tried to engage students by asking their opinions about some specific tasks in modeling. After that, I gave them time to do another activity by themselves and then stopped by their desks to see how they are performing and what ambiguities they’re facing. I see this one-to-one interaction useful as they became more willing to discuss problems and getting feedback. Interestingly, the mistakes were also common among the classmates which helped me as the instructor to understand which parts were more problematic to cover in the lecture, so I give more emphasis in the future.

 

Establishing a teaching philosophy requires a lot of careful thoughts and different characteristics to account for. Nonetheless, regardless of the context, I believe one of my teaching style features in the future would be focused on the mutual contribution of the instructor and the students. From this perspective, (1) the instructor guides the students through the material, (2) student engage in activities or hands-on experience to foster creative thinking and facing challenges, and (3) the instructor gives constructive feedback to students so they get a better understanding of their work.

Networked learning: Fast dissemination of information through global contribution

The Internet has made a huge impact in our lives during the last years. Specially, it has increased our social interaction zone to connect with people we don’t know at all. With all its positive and negative aspects, it can impact our learning process as well.  Now, looking at the past, I feel like my learning process in many courses could have been way different using newly developed platforms in the internet, compared to the traditional leaning settings in our classrooms. The topic of this session was about networked learning. As someone with engineering background who has started exploring completely new interdisciplinary topics for research recently, networked learning is a huge benefit! There are many online platforms being developed where users contribute to solve problems. So, instead of restricting the learning by solely relying on the instructor and reference books, networked learning is providing an interactive environment through global contribution. One interesting example in my filed is the Stackexchange. During the last year, this amazing platform helped me a lot for finding solutions. Basically, the whole idea is provide Q/A forums for solving problems related to statistics and data science. To make it efficient, the platform has created a lot of interactive features so the specific question reaches the right audience ASAP. For example, the user with a question creates a number of relevant tags to a topic, so the interested and informed people that have subscribed those tags will be informed for responding. What’s more, interesting questions will be voted up by others so they will appear upper by the search engines as others search for related problems in the future. In addition, research-based platforms are being introduced to connect the scholars. I recently came across a website called Polyplexus , a platform about summarizing research findings in less than 300 words. The idea is very similar to Twitter, but it’s research-oriented. As the inventor of the website describes, its objective is motivate understanding and learning for advertising research to others. Through adding features like research interest or expertise, it’s possible to quickly find collaborators around the world, follow their work, and be up-to-date as they publish new findings. I believe it’s just the beginning of networked learning. With the growing interest in online courses and open science movement, universities will get more and more connected in the future!