Richard Miller and Paul Hammond, “This is how we write”
This presentation was about how advances in technology will affect the classroom. I was very surprised because it seemed like what Richard and Paul was showing us seemed so futuristic and unconventional that I believed that it wouldn’t be implemented into classrooms for at least a few years, but Paul said that he began teaching a class through these means this semester. I could not imagine reading a textbook on an iPad, and having, as the presenters pointed out, dozens of distractions coming at me per minute; however, this type of learning is coming into the mainstream quickly, so it would be best to educate ourselves about it so that we can have the best possible learning environment for our students.
The presenters opened with, as I have stated, a textbook on an iPad that had videos, moving graphs and pictures, and audio explanations of the text that interrupted the reader. They asked us the question, “How do we prepare for these distractions while reading?” The first thing that I realized while looking at the textbook was that my mind was going a mile a minute: I wanted to see every video, every chart, and every realistic picture on every page of the book. While I believe that it is good to excite readers and get them engaged in the text, I also think that these distractions have a way of taking away from the text. I found it hard to focus on one aspect of the book at a time, and without focusing and thoroughly reading through subjects, how is the information supposed to become engrained in our minds?
To answer this question, the presenters suggested a “hybrid approach:” one that is not solely text based, but enriched with multiple types of media. They showed us a project that had recently been done by one of their students that had the outline of an essay, but also included videos, pictures, and links to articles that corresponded with the student’s essay. This was extremely interesting to me, because I think that the more you can research about a topic, the more you will learn about a topic, and the videos and pictures must be a great break from reading scholarly articles. However, a problem that I thought of was the credibility of the sources of these videos, pictures, and articles. Many of them are likely to come from media outlets, and some sources of media are unfortunately biased; how do we know which information to believe? The student can be researching skewed information that comes from otherwise credible news sources and not be aware of the certain types of biased information. Also, it is possible that the students may find videos or articles that have no credibility at all; videos and articles which are not presenting the correct facts. Because the internet is infinitely large, is it possible to see to it that students do not obtain faulty information? An answer to this problem would be to create internet “databases,” much like scholarly databases that have been reviewed so that we know the information is correct, these databases would be monitored to only give access to credible sources and will have checked the facts of each video / article / picture. A problem with this is, as I have stated before, the internet is seemingly infinite, so this is probably not possible.
I was very intrigued by the description of the class that the presenter was in the midst of teaching, about which he stated that the syllabus is more of a guideline to nudge people in the right direction, and then the class collectively finds articles that they suggest to each other and to the teacher: in the end, the syllabus is “produced by students in conversation with each other.” He showed us how the class collaborated online and suggested articles to each other, which I found amazing because he allowed them to start with one topic and gradually move on to whatever aspect they found interesting about that topic; in the end, some had completely different topics than others. I suppose it is quite like picking a topic for a paper, but this class’s way was amazing because they were allowed to do thorough research and not only pick a topic, but pick a topic that they had underlying interest in and was guided to throughout the semester intrinsically. The presenter stated that this changes the classroom dynamic completely, because instead of conventional teaching where the student is supposed to have read before the class and the teacher then talks about it, (he stated the common problem of students not having read before class and therefore not having any idea of what was going on,) it is now that the student reads before class, discusses it online with their classmates, and the teacher not only knows that the students have read, but also knows their opinions on the topic, so he is able to modify his lesson and discussion to each of his student’s needs.
Though these new self-motivated, discussion-based classroom is amazing and revolutionary, I have two concerns: one being the time constraints of college. Some students barely have enough time to read the assigned readings, let alone find readings for themselves to read before every class. They could procrastinate and find articles that are uninteresting to them, which does not help them in the long run because they will not find interesting topics to read about and therefore not be intrinsically motivated anymore. It is also very possible that because the articles are new to the professors as well, the students will be able to make things up about them if they are in a time constraining situation, instead of actually reading and analyzing them. Given the broad range of topics researched and the hundreds of different articles the professor will have to read per class, there is no way the professor could be the “expert” of what he/she is teaching. If this is the case, then how are they to know what information is absolutely correct? Also, that the professor has to read through dozens of articles per class, (I say dozens because if a class of 30 students is finding multiple articles and sharing them with each other, that adds up!), how does the professor find time to read each article? I assume that they must read each article, because if they did not than they would not understand the student’s point of views and how they came to the conclusions that they came to. It seemed to me like it was a heavier workload to the professor, but our presenter seemed to be very enthusiastic about it so I’m sure that there is a way that the professor administers the class to make them remain sane.
What I learned through this presentation is that the world of education is changing with advancements in education, and it is changing fast! The thing I liked most about the presentation is the “essay” the presenters showed us that included different media sources. This was extremely interesting to me because throughout the semester I have realized that some students have difficulty putting their thoughts into words, so if they have an argument it is distorted and weak but they have the idea in their minds so clearly. The implementation of videos and pictures would work to focus the student onto one topic, and while I am by no means suggesting they use the videos to speak for them, I believe that by including other forms of media into their presentation they will eventually find a way to voice their opinion more clearly. Another think I noticed while tutoring this semester was that a lot of my tutees did not have a concrete “thesis.” They would begin writing with a broad idea and expect a thesis to come to them, but when their paper was finished it ended up covering a broad area of the texts without connecting them to one central focal point, and they had a lot of trouble going back and connecting everything they had written to their newly developed thesis. The presenters stated that the essay that was infused with different sources of media was different because the question of the assignment is not longer “what’s your argument,” but instead “how do I organize all of these elements into a ‘super idea’?” While I am not stating that this is harder or easier than formulating a thesis, I do think it is very interesting because the student is able to see the book/article/essay he/she is reading from many different perspectives, rather than focus on a close reading and be forced to say the same things over and over again.
I also noticed that when the essays that my tutees were reading were boring or they weren’t interested in them, their work reflected it, as well as their attitudes toward using the specific pieces, and when they were interested in the essay, (which was for the most part “Into the Wild” and the essay about crime in NYC,) they were very excited every time they came up with a new idea regarding it. By incorporating the elements of what the presenters called the “super essay,” the students would be able to find interesting articles or videos pertaining to the essays they were writing about; even if those essays had been boring to them at first they could find ways to look at them to make them interesting. I truly believe that when one is intrinsically motivated to do something, their work reflects it, and that is the greatest aspect that I can think of regarding the implementation of technology into student’s writing.