Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Accuser versus The Accused

After spending the summer writing 4 or 5 tweets every day (which become status updates in Facebook), I've been thinking about blogging versus twitter.

As you know from previous posts, students generally don't like twitter. But they do like blogging. Students are accused of having short attention spans, of sloppy writing as a result of texting, and of lacking original thought since they get everything from wikipedia and the internet. Yet they like blogging and don't like to tweet or write status updates.

I personally enjoy the "quick update" aspect of twitter and I find it hard to block out the concentrated time to blog.

Do we have this backwards? Is it the "over 30's" with the short attention spans?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer Road Trip

As an academic, I get the summer off. Last summer, we drove from Washington DC to Portland OR over 7 weeks. This summer, we're headed to Seattle WA to drive back to Washington DC. Feel free to follow along here. I'll be back and blogging when the semester resumes.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Is an Online Exam Harder?

Last Fall, I offered my undergraduate students a choice: the could take the exam on paper OR the could take it online. The questions would be identical. The only difference would be the "medium". I was surprised to discover that more than 50% of students opted for paper. I tried the experiment again this semester -- with the same result.

This experience left me to wonder: Why would a so-called millennial student choose paper over a computer?

Below are my theories based on casual conversations with students and my observations during the exams:
  • Students like to hold the exam in their hands to gauge the length of the test and to have indicators of space to determine the length of individual answers.
  • Students like to flip through their exam to check their answers. Some students flip through 3 or 4 times before handing in the exam. While they can do this on the computer, it somehow doesn't "feel" the same to them.
  • Students don't like the countdown timer ticking away the minutes. Even with a clock in the room where they take the paper exam, they don't feel as intimidated as they do looking at a digital clock telling them how much time is left.
  • Students don't trust the technology. My guess is that this is the biggest barrier. They are afraid that they system will "crash" and they will lose their work and have to start over.
I wonder if this will change with the coming generations? Is it similar to my desire to hold a book in my hand and my reluctance move to an e-reader?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The choice is clear for me: laptop for notes only, Facebook can wait.

It is hard to believe, but the debate over computers in the classroom continues to rage. Starting with the Fall 07 semester, I've given an extra credit assignment asking students to write a short paper on the topic. The question they answer is "Should computers be banned?" Not surprisingly, a strong majority say "no". But 28% say "yes"! Let's look at their arguments:
"I know that as a student I should probably be for the use of wireless laptops in the classroom, but I know what really goes on during class." (AY)

"In my opinion, the classroom is a time for students to engage with each other. After all, isn’t the basis of an academic classroom to share, evaluate, and challenge each other’s ideas?" (MH)

"As a student...I see it all the time – students are focused on their laptops more than engaging themselves in the classroom discussion. Personally, I feel cheated out of my academic experience...{when} students would rather check their newsfeed than listen to what their classmates have to say." (MH)

"This is not high school anymore. Students come to class for their own benefits and should be able to decide how best to make use of their time" (MV)

"Turning off Internet access in the classroom will not magically transform an easily distracted or bored student into an active participant. There are many ways a student can distract themselves from a lecture in an Internet-free classroom, like doodling, passing notes or daydreaming. Does that mean we ban notebook paper next?" (AM)

"I feel that if the student is paying for their education, have their own laptop, and wish to surf the internet during their class than it is their right to do so." (J)

"By restricting access professors are serving as babysitters instead of instructors." (AM)

"I...find it to be distracting, whether I am personally distracted by own computer and the opportunity to play solitaire, or if it is from another student watching an episode of their favorite show." (AH)

"....students focus better when they do not have the “world” at their fingertips." (P)

"I approach every class with the same materials: a notebook and a pen." (Y)

"If the internet were not available to students they could focus better on the lecture. Although they might be busy doodling or sleeping, there is a greater chance of the student paying attention to the teacher if they don’t have computers distracting them." (J)
What do you think? Should computers be banned?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Does the Internet Make Us Dumb?

Last semester, I added a "debate" to the discussion about user-generated content. During class, we explored two provocative authors:
  • Doris Lessing, Winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature, says that the "inanities" of the internet has created a culture where people read nothing and know nothing of the world. (Read the entire speech)

  • Andrew Keen, Author of "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy", says that expertise is being replaced by rampant amateurism; opinion is mistaken for knowledge; and credentials, degrees, and years of experience mean virtually nothing. (Read this article for a taste of Keen or watch a hilarious interview with Steve Colbert)
Students divide into teams. One team argues that "The Internet IS Making us Dumb" and the other argues that "The Internet IS NOT Making Us Dumb". As you can imagine, the "IS NOT" point of view is easier to argue -- but I've been surprised by the thoughtful, well-supported, and passionate arguments to support the premise that the Internet IS making us dumb.

Maybe that statement alone proves the point?

What do you think? Is the Internet making us dumb?

Monday, December 8, 2008

14 Days of Twitter Part Two: “I Love Twitter”

This is the second post about my recent experiences using Twitter in the classroom. The first post, "14 Days of Twitter Part One: I Hate Twitter", is here: http://snipr.com/7awk6

Reaction 1: “Ah. I Get It.”

“Haha I'm using twhirl now this is sweet!” Day 11 from “T”

“now..I like Twitter....☺” Day 14 from “J”

“Isn't it amazing?? we can access to internet on the street and se can know what your friends are doing by twitter.” Day 8 from “G”

“I think I arleady addicted to Twitter...Is there any tool to contact to twitter not mobile phone???” Day 9 from “J”

“I'm write tweet using iPhone. It's really cool Mobile 2.0 Day 2 from “N”

“I am using Twhirl now. it is so convenient to tweet. I would recommend you to use this fancy tool :)” Day 3 from “N”
Reaction 2: Help Me, Please!
“interviewing with IBM next Thursday...any tips specific to the company? Day 3 from “X”

“2 use twitter on iPhone, just download twitterrific from the app store 4 free” Day 6 from “F”

“When Twitter and mobile are combined into one thing it creates a huge power. How cool the fastest tools are combined!” Day 3 from “N”
Reaction 3: Less is More
“I think twitter is effective way to let people know about their policies or ideas cause it is just one sentence” Day 2 from “G”

“The mobile can be the fastest tool to conversation within 140 characters with each other eventhough they are so far apart” Day 3 from “N”

“I agree with all of regarding being more efficient and concise when using tools like twitter. Its a great talent to pick-up !” Day 5 from “F”

“Microblogging on Twitter can be a useful training to write shorter posts and be concise. Which seems to be the key to success.” Day 10 from “L”

“Microblogging is a efficient means to discuss the politic through a simple procedure 140 characters in length like Twitter.” Day 9 from “N”
Reaction 4: This is Fun!
“My group used twitter to set up our group meeting yesterday. Go Virtual Team SKiD!” Day 12 from “Y”

“Good morning :) It is hard for me to tweet via mobile phone. Thats because I hunt and peck at the keys:(“ Day 4 from “N”

“Twitter is easy to use.I like the links.People are actually sharing content,even if they still feel like u should know what they're eating.” Day 13 from “N”

“Listen to the Twitter Song and dance silently to it! http://tinyurl.com/6rpuf7 Day 8 from “N”

“I'm tweeting and brushing my teeth at the same time. The future!?” Day 12 from “Y”
Next Time

As they say, there is always next time. I plan to make the following changes:
  1. Fun is Fun: The students really like the social side of Twitter. I'll use Twitter next time as one of the tools to build the culture of openness and to create closeness among students. I required 3 tweets per day and 4 @replies during the two week period. The tweets were required to be related to the weekly reading topics. (As a graded assignment, I have to have some quantitative requirements.) Next time, I'll let them bond by using Twitter the way most people do -- a mix of social and professional tweets.

  2. Start Early: This assignment took place about 2/3 of the way through the course. Twitter has huge value as a way for students to get to know each other. Next time, I'll introduce it much earlier. I may make it an assignment early in the semester and encourage students to keep using it so they find their own uses for it.

  3. @Reply Rocks: I was interested to discover that students used @replies liberally. This surprised me since student's are reluctant to comment on blog posts. Students prefer to write a blog post versus writing a comment. The behavior was opposite with twitter -- student prefer to @reply over writing a new tweet. Next time, I'll count all tweets as equals for grading. I may even weight @reply more heavily to encourage even more interaction between students.
What's missing from this list? What other ideas do you have for me for using Twitter next time?

Friday, December 5, 2008

14 Days of Twitter Part One: “I Hate Twitter”

Image Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/love-hate.jpg
The back story: I teach a course on social media & web2.0 (called Social Networking & Business http://sixdegrees.wikidot.com). For the first time this semester I required students to use Twitter. I borrowed the idea of “14 Days of Twitter” from Karen Miller Russell. She wrote about “48 Hours of Twitter” http://snipr.com/756jg on her blog. (Yes, I’m an overachiever. 48 hours just wasn’t enough.)

I used class time to have students sign up for Twitter accounts (only 1 already had an account) and then we walked through the process of following all the other students. They spent a little time learning about direct messages, @replies, and having fun writing silly things. They also selected companies and individuals to follow using this excellent list of Twitter accounts http://snipr.com/757lk. (For those interested, the complete “lab” is available here: http://sixdegrees.wikidot.com/14twitter)
I walked into class after 14 days of my students using Twitter excited to hear what students thought. I started the discussion asking for quick reactions. The first student to raise his hand (we’ll call him “T”) said “I hate Twitter”. Wow. Where do you go from there?

Reaction 1: “I just don’t get it”
“If you don't need to get out of jail and don't witness an accident or catastrophy, what is the point about Twitter?” Day 1 from “J”

“still not fond of this site Day 1 from “T”

“so how many hours a day do you think ppl spend tweeting?” Day 1 from “T

“still not excited about Twitter” Day 1 from “T”

“Oh god this twitter thing is really hard” Day 3 from “D”

“I hate this twitter thing, but it would be nice for a political debate: keep all answers to 140 characters or less!” Day 10 from “F”

“I do not still like twitter...it is a little bit bothering me.” Day 13 from “G”

“Last day of tweeting. I can't wait to go back to the normal blogging. Missed the weekly blog posts.” Day 14 from “O”
Reaction 2: “This is hard!”
“I thought it would be breeze posting 3 tweets a day but it's starting to get difficult. How do i get through the remaining time?” Day 4 from “Y”

“@Y I also think the same. This is an alternative Facebook and it's beginning to wear me down posting updates” Day 4 from “B”

“I think twitter is the shorter, faster, easier version blog, but sometimes disturbing.” Day 5 from “R”

“well, It is pretty tough to post 3 comments everyday, isn't it?” Day 10 from “G”
Reaction 3: 140 characters, Really?
“I mourn the day when people form their political opinions around simplistic 140-character Tweets.” Day 14 from “B”

“Next, we need to have debates over chat, IM, or even twitter, that way the message is short, clear and easy to ignore. Day 7 from “F”

“Blaming myself for enjoying developping my thoughts in more than 140 characters. Do u think a blogpost shouldn't exceed 2 tweets?” Day 9 from “L”
Reaction 4: I can’t get this thing to work!
“I cant get my phone to work with this thing!” Day 5 from “B”

“T tried to text message twitter as a post but failed. I need figure this out again. Day 12 from “T”

“was trying to fix twitter on my phone without any success” Day 2 from “Y”

“need to set up the text messaging option for twitter” Day 12 from “N”

“this twitteriffic client is pretty glitchy” Day 5 from “X”

“the twitter app on the iPhone keeps crashing... how frustratinggg Day 9 from “F”
Have something to add? Comments welcomed. Want to hear more? This is one of a pair of posts. The other (will be) titled “14 Days of Twitter Part Two: I Love Twitter” and will include a summary and plans for next semester. Stay tuned.