These days, I’m quite into weightlifting and bodybuilding culture as a hobby. Often, people see me and ask if I play sports or want to sign up for a team, to which I immediately respond no. Not out of disinterest, but for the fact that I’m not athletic. Not in the sense where I can’t perform a physical activity, but in the sense that I’m very uncoordinated. I can’t dribble a ball, make a catch, or swing a bat really. But people look at my physique and how often I workout and assume otherwise. Unlike some people who regularly workout for sports training or competitions, I just sort of fell into it. I began hearing about it in classes and started to do independent research. I didn’t have any coaches or trainers, but what I did have was internet access. The fitness industry has boomed with the invention of content creators and social media. So many different avenues are available for the public to use and learn and customize their workout experience. Through the use of demonstrative videos, infographics, ebooks, and online calculators, I was able to learn the ins and outs of bodybuilding techniques, appropriate dieting tactics, equipment and supplement recommendations, and more. Despite not being inherently athletic, I was able to use educational tools I was more familiar with to improve my knowledge on an unfamiliar topic.
Technology in the classroom is becoming more commonplace as the years go on. Even when I first started at Virginia Tech a little over a year ago, I was stunned by the amount of note-taking being done on laptops and tablets. I felt ancient sitting there with my pen and paper! More and more universities are capitalizing on the increasing presence of tech in the classroom by using devices as supplements to a lecture rather than eliminating them from classrooms altogether. Yes, technology can be distracting and detrimental to student learning, but if you’ve ever sat in a 90 minute lecture on any topic, you know that your mind will wander regardless of how engaging the topic is. Phones and other devices just provide an outlet for that attention. In this article, the author speaks on the various approaches taken when it comes to technology in the classroom. One idea spoke to me: the “Google jockey” approach. A director of teaching at Vanderbilt Univ. was quoted saying “if you give students something productive and on-topic to do with their devices, it reduces idle browsing.” The students are still engaged with their course content while satisfying the urge to pick up their phones.
Students will always be distracted, if not by technology, then by anxiety, lack of interest, or just general sleepiness. Sitting in a chair listening to someone speak on any topic for over an hour will naturally cause a students’ mind to wander. It is our responsibility as educators to keep their attention as as well as possible. Blaming technology will only get you so far. We should utilize other routes of learning and properly engage students who simply learn differently.
What do you think: is increasing technology in the classroom a terrible decision? Or do you think it can be used as a tool?
There’s a massive incompatibility between the realities of how much information & tooling is readily available online right now, versus the teaching approaches and methods commonly used in engineering higher ed. If I wanted to implement a website with a backend, physically construct and implement controls for a robot, integrate multiple smarthome devices to suit my needs, or just about anything related to electrical/computer/software engineering, there is next to no relevant course content for me to draw from across my CS & ECE dual engineering bachelors degrees. What little I would be using would come not from senior year ‘specialized’ courses, but from sophomore year ‘fundamental’ courses.
This discrepancy is made visible via the problems discussed in the readings from this week, but originates in a deeper mismatch in what “engineering” entails.
“Design”: What engineering culture calls actual engineering
Among a lay-person audience, a simple description of what ‘engineering’ entails would probably land somewhere near “solving problems using technology”. Engineering academia would likely claim that’s what one learns to do over the course of an engineering bachelors. However, once you are exposed to engineering education’s discussions of engineering content, especially as an engineer, it’s clear there’s two wholly distinct types of ‘problem’ being referred to: ‘idealized’ math problems completely abstracted out of any and all relevant context- social, geographical, or even physical or economic- and “real”, actual problems experienced by specific human beings that individual engineers, situated from their particular social/political/institutional context, are attempting to address. With few exceptions, engineering instruction at the university level focuses almost entirely on solving idealized, glorified math problems and simply renames “solving real problems” to “engineering design”. We then spend in the ballpark of 120 out of 128 credit hours solving ‘idealized’ math problems, and only bother with ‘real’ problems in a generally-final-year-long “design capstone” involving little actual instruction.
This fundamental misunderstanding, in my opinion, drives so, so much of the tensions described in the readings this week between old and newer teaching styles. Why cultivate curiosity and self-directed engagement if the students simply are there to learn the patterns of specific new math problems? Why should students have access to the internet- along with all its tools for ‘collaborating’ ‘cheating’- during class? How is experimentation even useful when the ultimate endeavor ‘engineering’ consists of is answering math questions?
These newer, alternative teaching practices are only alternative because the underlying need that justifies them has been deemed, a-priori, irrelevant to the course content we’re supposed to provide. When put alongside the misaligned incentives and absent teaching training of faculty/instructors/TAs at major research universities, of course we continue using the arcane, demonstrably inferior teaching practices that establish boring, soulsucking, uninformative classrooms. Why wouldn’t we?
Lectures: Specialized Tools for Specific Content
I LOVED the 4 Things Lecture is good for piece; it gives name to one struggle I’ve faced with paying attention to or absorbing anything from so, so many instructors, talks, or conferences. In naming the 4 things lectures do well, not only does it imply that if you arent doing one of those, there’s a better method than a lecture; it also implies that for any given lecture you’re writing you should be able to articulate which of the four it is at any given point in time. I have looked back at my lectures from last semester’s course, all of which I recorded live, and can see the lack of all 4 styles during those specific, least-engaging lectures.
So what sort of content are these four use cases most compelling for?
When I go to teach how to solve some idealized math problem, like finding the far-field beam pattern from a given antenna structure analytically, the overwhelming bulk of the time is spent walking through algebraic manipulations. There will be some inevitable point where I need to apply a trick, or think about the math in a clever way, where we briefly use modeling thought processes, but often for such a problem it’s 30 seconds at best out of 10 minutes straight. If I’m in my differential equations course and we’re doing an ‘applied’ example problem, perhaps the instructor needs to give a brief hint of context from the field of application; most likely the example problem came from some textbook, however, so the instructor often doesn’t actually have that context. My best instructors only managed to do this by teaching the story behind the development of the content at hand; the stories of Einstein’s correspondences grappling with the instantaneous information transmission implied by naive interpretations of Maxwell’s equations formed the basis for my understanding of special relativity. If you’re an engineer, think back- how many of the ‘idealized’ problems our coursework focused on in homeworks and tests actually would involve 10% or more of the time fitting any of these 4 things:
Modeling Thought Processes
Sharing Cognitive Structures
But when focusing on ‘real’ problems, engineering design problems, you see all 4 of the above in spades. Because we’re actually trying to design things to do stuff to address problems, we need to have developed intuitive understandings of what the different technical tools in our toolbox do. We need to explore the thought processes involved in driving all the way from abstract user needs like “I want a thing that can deliver my water bottle to me from my car mid-hike”, to the broad strokes questions of finding what options for design-types are available and selecting one. Suddenly we’re lecturing on the cognitive structures by which I conceptualize different types of motors, because in order to actually make things you need to lay out a whole plan without restricting yourself to specific exact components. And because these problems are coming from addressing needs, examples used in class naturally lend themselves into telling the stories behind them- they are problems involving individual human beings, rather than purely hypothetical interactions between abstract objects removed from place and time.
Technology in the Classroom
The other piece I found myself really responding to was the discussion of tech access in the classroom. The accessibility aspect of policies blocking students from participating cannot be understated; I was outed unwillingly in several courses at my alma mater by professors with strict no-technology rules running afoul of my accomodations from the disability resources office. I’d end up sitting there in the front two rows with my laptop clearly out, open, and on, blatantly using it unpunished while the instructor scolded student after student for taking out their phones. In the end in each course I ended up fielding questions or accusations of favoritism so much that I stopped using my laptop despite my accomodations, and eventually no longer bothered attending the class times. It’s an uphill battle to even feel able to ask for accomodations, such policies pose additional barriers each of which renders your classroom increasingly inaccessible, filtering out disabled students ‘multiplicably’.
This is a hot-button issue, however, as plenty of instructors feel resentment against percieved threats to their sole dominion over the classroom. There are instead even easier, completely unabiguously positive possible applications of technology in the classroom: Recording, uploading, and transcribing lectures.
Due to the rise in live videogame streaming sites like Twitch.tv, where individual full-time professional streamers play videogames on a usually daily basis to audiences ranging from 5 to 15,000 concurrent viewers, it’s never been easier to record and distribute your lectures for your students. Programs like Open Broadcaster Software are extremely approachable, even to the tech non-savvy instructor. With laptops including a webcam and mic, the barest minimum quality recording is most likely achievable for free with under 5 minutes of initial installation & configuration time and less than 20 seconds of pre-lecture prep time. Significantly better quality is easily achieved via the use of a simple webcam, external microphone, and potentially a tripod, with total cost for a solid kit running $110 in class-relevant expenses and increasing pre-lecture prep time to roughly 6 minutes, like using a Logitech C920, a BlueYeti mic, and any cheap portable tripod, which is my recording setup. CMS programs like Canvas include built-in media hosting functionality, which is what you see in the screenshot above, in case you only want to expose your lecture videos to your current class; Instead hosting them on a public resource like Youtube or a self-hosted place like on IPFS can dramatically increase your instructional reach beyond those students currently in your classroom. Both Canvas and Youtube include automated transcription systems costing nothing to use (though Youtube’s in particular is flooringly inaccurate at any rare or remotely technical term) and are compatible with uploading & auto-synchronizing transcripts of your own should you have them.
The benefits for recording lectures and sharing them this past semester in my/Dr Wicks’/Dr. Asbeck’s ~100person Mechatronics course cannot be overstated. Students could re-watch lectures to better absorb the content, and were more likely to do so because the playback speed can be varied anywhere between absurdly slow and too fast to comprehend. They can actually listen and ask questions in class because they know they don’t need to take explicit notes in order to have a record of what was discussed. Students unable to attend class, whether due to disability, social, or financial reasons, could easily still see the exact same lecture as those who were present. When giving live demos, such as coding the microcontroller to do a certain behavior or demonstrating the debugging thought process, students can rewind and watch my screen as I do it, pausing and unpausing as they follow along. Students for whom english is their second language, or hard of hearing students, could actually see my lecture with captions! As I move toward sharing them publicly, my lectures can reach so many more people, beyond merely the students who happened to get into my course and attend that day, including people who could never have made it into the college in the first place due to finances or race, gender, or class barriers.
I’ll share a detailed tutorial with pictures later, in a future piece on this blog, but a great place to start is simply using OBS, whatever CMS you’re already using, and your laptop’s built in mic and webcam. Here’s an imperfect example recording, my “Sensor Cornucopia” lecture describing the immense array of different sensors available to the mechatronicist and providing the framework by which I organize their fundamentally simple underlying technologies, all captured via my laptop’s webcam and my external $50 Blue Yeti microphone:
There’s immense underexplored potential for these new, digital alternative teaching approaches for the modern era, particularly in Engineering education. Fighting to update our teaching practices is the same problem as fighting to focus our engineering instruction on real, human problems instead of purely abstracted math problems, this shift also corresponds to the fight to meaningfully engage with the sociopolitical aspects of our engineering work instead of our current, presumed-apolitical-by-omission-only framing. In taking on this transition, many of our current teaching practices in engineering educational contexts will need to change if we wish to continue to claim to be acting in light of current research.
Motivation is very important to increase the learning ability on the student. The idea of the “Quest to Learn” school seems interesting in triggering the kids imagination. Digital learning keeps the kids excited and interested to learn more. We have a very known proverb saying “Teach the kids while they are playing”; it is very effective and beneficial for them. However, exposing them to digital screens all the day could pose other problems; like the lack of socializing with other kids, eye problems …
It is true that lectures could be very boring, but for me two factors could help in getting the student’s attention. The first one is that the student is really interested in the subject (like grad students who are working on a research problem related to the class content). The second one is that the instructor is really talented, knowledgeable and energetic. If the student got motivated, I think that there is no need for phone or laptop ban during the class.
This weeks readings had an encompassing set of views ranging from the use of laptops, phones, and/or other digital technology in the classrooms to rethinking teaching and learning from game design to a new culture of learning revolving around creativity and imagination using games to facilitate that kind of learning (Kamenetz). Whew, there is a … Continue reading Considering Video Games and Play as Criteria for Course Design→
We talked a little bit in class this week about professors that have successfully engaged their students in a lecture setting and found ways to “reach them” with the subject material. Coming from a chemistry background, I am trying to think of ways of keeping students engaged in classes like organic and analytical chemistry. At some point, students need to just sit down and read the book. However, I believe we can do better in the classrooms where these subjects are taught.
I am in a class right now with a really great professor. In this class, we are learning the causes of air pollution and ways of mitigating it. I have been in similar classes before with similar subject material and every time, the time spent in class has been dull. It’s always been very passive learning on the part of the students with the professor talking at the class and doing little to engage them. But this professor is different. During class, she finds ways of working in current news topics, discussing public resources on air quality, and gives time to work on problems in class. These pieces of the lecture make the material real for students and break up the dense and monotonous 1.5-hour lecture that would typically be definitions, equations, and material.
All of this is to say that we can do better. While at some point, students need to sit down and learn the material by reading and practicing, lecturers need to get students to care. This can be done by making the material hit home, having them do problems so they feel like they have a starting point on the homework, or breaking up the lecture into different pieces. to keep them engaged.
But what about classes like organic chemistry. There aren’t many current news articles on topics related to organic chemistry meaning that they probably can’t engage students with current happenings this subject area. However, I have a few ideas that can make these lectures less excruciating. It may require that the professor get creative and even cover less material. But, would it be worth it if the averages on the exams were higher than 55%? Which is unacceptable in my opinion. No matter how you spin it, the professor is at fault. Either they aren’t teaching, they aren’t engaging, or their exams don’t match the level they are teaching. Anyway…, these professors can break up the class with problems, have students do intermittent presentations on reaction mechanisms, do small (and contained!) experiments followed by a discussion of what happened, or even do a one-day field trip to a chemical plant or lab. If I may add, my professor did none of this while I was in chemistry and the exam averages were definitely a 55% or lower! Was it the students or the professor? We’ll never know.
This may also be an issue for classes in the humanities. I have taken few classes in the humanities but for the ones I have taken, professors fill class time lecturing at students rather than letting them interact with the material. Lecturers teaching these classes can probably work in discussions or student presentations or maybe even field trips. While most professors feel pressured to cover as much material as possible in a semester, what good is it if students only take home 20% of it? It’s almost better to slow down and find ways to engage students. It will be less of a waste of the professors time and less excruciating for the students.
If you are a social media user, you have noticed that in the last weeks many people are posting then-and-now profile pictures: the ten years challenge. Even though many might believe that this is a movement created by Facebook to train their facial recognition algorithm, I think it is a nice opportunity for me to reflect what changed in my learning process in the last ten years.
Before College... I got my first computer in 2011 during my first semester in college. Up to that time, learning for me was basically an offline process. At my high school, we did not have PowerPoint classes. If we were lucky, maybe in one of our classes the professor could show some pictures in this old projector. It was the closest thing to PowerPoint that we had:
Because we did not have PowerPoint classes, some professors did an effort to give us some handouts so that we did not have to copy too much from the black board. However, the handouts were not photocopied. Does anyone remember this machine?
What is the name of this machine?
We did not have books for every class. Even the classes we did had books for, most of them were borrowed from our school. Therefore, we needed to copy in our notebooks most of the subject taught in class.
Some part of our grade was based in our notebook. We did not have smartphones to take pictures of the board that we would never look at. In fact, we had to practice handwriting a lot. At some extent I believe that this process made me a better writer as I was able to learn a lot of the subject because I needed to read it as I wrote it . Last semester at Virginia Tech I remember one of my classmates complaining to the professor that we should have extra time during exams, because handwriting was a slow process, and everybody was used to write using their computers.
Schools did not have electronic resources
Project Cover: written by hand
I had more opportunities for "hands- on" learning. This is an example of a biology homework we used to do at school.
Example of a biology homework
Do not get me wrong! We had internet on 2011. However, not everybody had easy access to the internet and the school did not have computers in any of the classroom. I remember we had to be really creative for presenting projects. Nowadays, I am used doing a nice PowerPoint presentation for any type of project presentation. Not too long ago, we used to create songs, dance, perform or find new creative ways to present something.
The most common way of presenting projects besides PowerPoints
I have made so many cardboard TV's to present project's and homework:
Cardboard TV example
This book collection was my google up to year 2010 or so:
In college ...
When I went to college, everything drastically changed. I went to a good private school and so, they had many resources that I was not used to. It took me a while to get used to the "PowerPoint class idea". Even though my whole life I was exposed to the traditional lecture-oriented classroom, the lack of technologies forced us to find creative ways to engage students. In college, learning became quite boring. The creative ways were always based on "showing videos" or "PowerPoint presentations". I had to learn basic rules to write academic documents. I did not even know what a citation was. It was a difficult change and I had to start taking computer classes and start accepting more about the idea behind computer programming. However, not everything was more difficult came with hardship. Doing homework and projects became an easier process. Google reduced immensely the time I spent looking for references.
However, I feel that I learnt more how to Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V. Because I did not have to handwrite anything, I could only scan read most of my references. In fact, in less time, I had more information (But, do students really read the references? ). Also, I basically did not need a notebook for school as I was used to do my whole life!
Exchange Program ...
In 2014 I came to the US in an exchange program and I started learning English. The way that I understand learning drastically changed. I had came in contact with many technologies, and I started to get to know basic tools that could make my learning experience more interesting. Also, there were so many games in the classroom that the same subject I learned in Brazil taught me something different.
From this phase of my life, the most important thing that happened to me was learning English. Up to that point, everything that I knew was taught to me in Portuguese. In this sense, my references were limited to my language. There were many important things related to my major that I could not find in Portuguese. For the first time in my life, I had no limit to things I could learn. In English I could find just about anything I wanted. Also, I started to realize how manipulative the news I was getting in my country were.
Now ... Nowadays I am surrounded by far too much information. I am connected to many social media and I spend a lot of time keeping up with them. There are times that I feel I should delete some, but even my school duties here in US obligate me to keep them. Not too long ago, I did not have a smartphone and now I have trouble focusing in the classroom without getting distracted by other things on my phone. I still feel like I am behind on the understanding of some technologies that are common in the US but not in my country. I have access to many resources, but I do not fully know how to effectively incorporate them in my daily learning life.
How about you? What has changed in the last ten years?
This week had interesting timing as I spent much of my “free” time looking at mobile conference app websites. A lot of them emphasize that you can gamify (yeah, it makes me uncomfortable that this is a word too) your conference to get people really involved/invested in the conference. Then I start reading about the same idea for learning. I had previously seen this for learning good habits, and I think many of us have play exam jeopardy or something similar to try to make learning fun.
However, the quest to learn floored me. The amount of emphasis on all aspects of the gamification process is astounding. This is a tremendous way to get children involved and critically thinking about problems. Programming your own games requires you to explicitly solve many tiny problems that you normally wouldn’t realize you’re solving. This teaches kids to critically asses everything they do, but in a fun way. It’s absolutely amazing really. I can’t help but be tremendously jealous of these young programmers.
This brings me to my next point though. The money that quest to learn must have, to supply Macbooks to students, is way out of reach for most schools. Even today, teachers across the country are complaining about basic teaching supplies like pens and pencils being out of reach. I can’t help but feel that this program comes from a place of tremendous privilege that is unobtainable for the majority of schools in this country, and certainly in the global community. The learning techniques are wonderful, but unless we change our funding priorities in a big way, they are only going to facilitate a larger divide between the haves and the have-nots.
What are your thoughts? Is gamification the future of teaching? Is it a temporary fad? Or is it another tool for gentrification?
Most people like to learn through digital games especially children which means using the games as learning tools. Digital games guide learners to learn subject matter in context, as part of an interactive method (Aurora University, 2019). Those games should be designed well through instructional strategies or learning theories to educate people in the good way and make the learning environment more effective. Games should make the learners more engaged and interested and that could motivate them to learn. Learners are in the position to provide feedback for the designer, the developer or the instructor related to the games if they are useful or not. Thus, the instructor should let the learners evaluate the games because that is the best window to make the education through the games more successful.
Using digital games help learners to learn from failures and successes they face through the learning process. In addition, when the instructor finds a good game and want to implement that in the classroom for the students, the instructor should go through the game and play it to see if that could be helpful for learning before providing it to the students. Also, we should consider some issues in advance to plan for using games in education like which subjects can works through digital games, the age of learners, and the timing of the learning process because all of these aspects play important roles in education.
When I was in undergrad, on top of a full course load each semester because my major was Psychology and Pre-Med and I participated in the Honors program, I worked 30 hours per week–20 hours in the Bursar’s Office and 10 in the Tutoring Center. I started working in the Tutoring Center the summer after my first year as a Chemistry tutor at the recommendation of my Chemistry professor. At first, the idea of tutoring was terrifying because I felt I was in no way an expert in Chemistry and I did not know how to convey the information any better than Dr. Sinski. Even after attending tutor training (our Center required every tutor be at least Level 1 certified by the College Reading and Language Association), I did not feel much more confident. Of course learning about active listening and learning styles and types of difficult students was interesting, but none of it seemed to relate to what actually happened in tutoring sessions. Yes, I had students with different learning styles and some were “difficult” students and I listened to them actively, but I wanted tips for actually making my specific material easier for them to comprehend.
Eventually, I realized I wasn’t going to get those tips from any training, but from experience with what worked and what didn’t. I had the tools in my toolbox to get students thinking–the Socratic method, scaffolding, etc.–and I could build rapport with students such that they would be honest and tell me. That was when I realized that the mantra from tutor training that always seemed the most annoying–“you are not a teacher, you are a peer learner”–was perhaps the most important. The point of being a peer-learner was that you should not re-teach the material as you are not an expert, you should simply guide students to the correct answers and better learning by providing tricks for studying and remembering. However, this realization made me think that perhaps everyone would learn better and have a better classroom experience if teachers considered themselves peer learners.
A teacher as a peer learner would be the classroom facilitator, but they wouldn’t just lecture. They would lay a groundwork and then let the students guide the course, just like we would let tutees guide our tutoring sessions. In Contemporary Pedagogy class, several voiced how students do not do the reading before class, so it is difficult to have meaningful discussion. However, I feel like this stems from the fact that students expect that the teacher will lecture on the material regardless and they will then have all the information to do as well on the test as they feel they need to do. But what if we undermined this expectation by changing the way that readings are used for class–not as materials to be taught for adequate knowledge as obtained by testing, but as materials for completing learning activities in the class. For example, in two readings for this week’s Contemporary Pedagogy, A New Culture of Learning and Setting Students’ Minds on Fire, the authors mention how basing the course on an active learning paradigm, such as having a show and tell aspect demonstrating projects created using the skills from that week’s readings or playing a Reacting to the Past game where every student has a role in a debate making history come to life lead to students reading materials not assigned and engaging with fellow students about the course. By working on these projects with students, the teacher can act as a peer learner.
As a chemistry tutor, I eventually did find those tips about how to better get the content “point” across to students, but it was by working through problems with them and making mistakes. When a mistake is made, and you work to learn how to fix it, you never make the same mistake again. Eventually I felt like I learned all the pitfalls to solving Chemistry problems (I didn’t, but by final year tutoring, I had found all the ones my students would come across). And I had accumulated many tips for making content easier to remember (I had a great 30 minute spiel about how to name compounds properly and a flowchart for any conversion problem), but I did not develop them by myself. As a teacher now, and in the future, I don’t want to teach in the traditional sense. I want to be a peer learner. Even in my own field, new research will continue to develop and I will never be a complete expert in the sense of knowing everything there is to know about psychology (or even my niche within it, biological psychology). So, because as a peer learner you are humble and accept help from outside sources, the idea of having a digital aspect to the class is welcome, rather than something to worry about as a distraction. We’re all human, we all get bored, and some content just doesn’t excite us no matter how much our peer learner tries to show us how it relates to our life and interests (believe me, the beauty and importance of chemistry is challenging to get across to students who only seem to care about running track). But we can try to make it fun, and inclusion of games is just one way. I often directed my students to Sporcle for chemistry practice, and I frequently use Kahoot in presentations for seminar classes in grad school. Our students should want to win. Like the students at Quest to Learn, if learning is focused on developing practical skills to solve more problems (learning like occurs in video games, where you do not move onto the next level if you are not ready to learn it–like scaffolding in tutoring!), then school work becomes not only much more exciting, but also much more practical for doing jobs in the digital age.
One final point: because our students are digital learners, even if it is difficult (for example, I myself am terrible at games and coding and most things related to technology), we need to embrace digital resources. That’s also part of being a peer learner–you have to meet the tutee where they are. You can only be helpful if you can keep up and make the material applicable to how they live. Truly, technology can make all the difference. I often think back to when I attended Thrivals 3.0 at the IdeaFest in Lousville. The readings for this week aligned so perfectly. A researcher there spoke about how kids could teach themselves as demonstrated by his Hole-in-the-Wall project. Basically, he just stuck a computer in a wall with no instructions for use in a slum and kids quickly learned by working collaboratively how to use it. As a teacher who is also a peer learner, we can both be the provider of the “computer” and one of the kids learning from the group.
Gone are the days when one’s network is limited to the people in one’s life – neighbors, classmate, colleagues at work etc – these days, the term ‘network’ transcends physical contact. The advent of the internet brought along social media and its platforms. Chief among social media platforms is Twitter. Twitter has become such a powerful information dissemination platform that the President of the United States (Donald Trump) frequently shares information of national importance on it. And if anyone was ever doubting the capability of these social media platforms, I’m sure they would have been convinced by now.
Today, academics are latching on to this trend, and are increasingly expanding their network beyond physical contact. Many professors now have a website or blog where they post regularly. Since I started my Ph.D. at Virginia Tech, I have been required to blog for at least three different classes. These blogs have usually been “our class outside of the class,” where we would post and comment on other people’s post. To be sincere, at first it was difficult – I did not want to put myself out there, I did not want to be judged, and when I summoned the courage to write, I realized how difficult it was to put pen to paper.
As an academic (or emerging academic I should say), I am aware of the capability of these social media platforms to disseminate information to a wide readership, however, I would admit, I still do not consider myself to have joined the bandwagon of bloggers (or regular bloggers I should say). While I started blogging in 2017, and having blogged regularly over a period of time, I still do not feel like a ‘real blogger.’ I consider real bloggers as those who enjoy the art of blogging and blog out of their own volition. I, on the other hand, blog for classes, and there was a time I blogged for a job I got over the Summer of 2017.
However, after watching the short youtube video by Seth Godin and Tom Peters, I have decided to really take this on – and not just for GRAD 5114course, but more like a hobby, something I do regularly. I have been one to criticize the capability of academic publications/journals to reach many of the audiences they are mainly meant for. Many of these journals are not accessible to the people who really need the information in them. Findings of academic research mainly circulate among the academic realms – in conferences and for individuals’ personal scholarship. For example, as a leadership educator, I conduct research that makes recommendations for stakeholders such as business managers. And I begin to think to myself, how many business managers subscribe to a journal for recent scholarship in leadership? I’d guess very few. However, what if I blog about my findings, present them in non-technical language and share them on Twitter to say millions of followers (well, this may be a little aspirational)? I think I’d be reaching more people and making more impact. And based on this realization, I have decided to start blogging actively again, even if nobody reads it – it is free after all.