I attended a conference at Wilfred Laurier University last week on student engagement. The keynote speaker, Don Tapscott, gave a very inspiring talk about his new book, Grown up Digital.
While he acknowledged some major concerns over privacy and the quality of some sites, he also made some very intgeresting points about the way digital natives are beginning to think and interact. In one example, he showed a picture of a group of students who were watching a sports show. Everyone in the room had their own laptop, and they had two TVs going. While the show was on, they were all able to look up stats and other relevent information to help track the progress of the team. The point was that this group was very connected to information and were able to immediately access whatever they needed to know. Another example involved a young student who commented on newspapers;
Have you ever seen those things? They are outdated before they are even printed, and get more so by the minute. There are no links to supporting information and no video! Plus, they are awkward to hold and you get ink all over your fingers. (not exactly verbatim).
In one presentation, "Once We Were Teachers", I listened to a college instructor talk about his journey from Computer Applications teacher to facilitator. He talked about how he was unable to keep up with software changes and keep himself current - impossible! What he can do is act as a faciltitator and help students find what they need to know and sift throught the masses of information available. He then demonstrated a very impressive use of WIKIs to help students create a knowledge base for the computer applications that they are studying. One of the more liberating aspects of this approach, was, in his words, to give people "who never have an opportunity to tell their own story" that very opportunity and to give them a framework within which to do so.
Another presentation on WIKI use was entitled, "Wiki-Diving and Infusational Technology". In this project, students worked in groups to share their experiences with diverse cultures. Part of the project was to use the WIKI to create a presentation of their experiences. The presenter made two interesting points:
- Using the wiki highlighted somediferences between informal and formal learning of software. The net generation learn what they need to know to get the job done. The digital immigrant still reads the manual and starts at the beginning.
- Using the WIKI allowed them to partake in "meaning-making", not "meaning-taking".
In "Plugging into the Matrix", the presenter talked about writing as a continuum with texting at one end and academic essays theses at the other end. Her students are experts at texting so she wondered how to convert that writing enthusiasm and skill into a more formal process and skill. She discussed a process that involved:
- Free writing - students write to a blog or a discussion board about a topic - in this case a poem - and share any thoughts that they have.
- Looping - students look at their first effort and focus on main ideas or even one main idea. Then they write again.
- Ink shedding - now students take their second piece and shed unnecessary information - fluff - and poor grammar. Then they focus more sharply on the content and write to communicate their ideas.
Chatting - Students now share their ideas and writing on-line.
As students move through this process, they gradually shift along the continuum towards 'better' writing.
The last session was called "A Match of Enthusiasms". In this simple, but rather effective approach, we were paired with another person and asked to become a 'student' and 'tutor'. The students wrote a list of ten things they wanted to learn and ther tutors each wrote alist of ten things they wanted to teach. In pairs, we then compared our lists. With my partner, we had some overlap with French language and culture. My tutor wanted to teach about French cinema and I wanted to improve my French language skills. As we discussed this and saw the overlap, we both became interested in the possibilities. This seems like such an obvious exercise for any tutor-student relationship, but I think we would all be surprised by how much mismatched enthusiasm is out there.