Utilizing Extant Tech in the Classroom

Use the technology we already have in more pervasive and effective ways.

Cell phones
First, use the technology we already have available by taking advantage of cell phones.

One example is at CCE.

Phones and the internet
Vocabulary lists could be split among students with everyone looking up their word and then combining the definitions in a collaborative homework assignment. I have done this in my classroom and it worked well. Now when my students need to know how to spell a word or the meaning of a word, they say, “Can we use our phones?” This works well in my classroom.

You might also be able to use phone technology in the classroom in a kind of scavenger hunt. “The first one to find a photo illustrating X concept…” I can see all kinds of possibilities for that in the humanities course.

The now defunct blog scholar says this about tweeting:

Many academics indicate that blogging takes too much time away from core activities of teaching and research. But is anyone really so busy they can’t spare 140 characters or less to communicate an idea?

If the class had a hashtag (the number sign with a word that signifies all the tweets are on that topic), you could have the students tweet in class. Who hasn’t had a discussion that didn’t go anywhere? But what if you asked the question and had the students tweet the answers. You could have the twitter feed up on the screen and talk about the responses. While it’s not anonymous, it does allow for quieter folks to “speak up.”

Phones and photography
English classes could have the narrative paper written around a photo essay, process papers could include directions with photo illustrations, and descriptive essays could be written about a single photograph.

Creative writing classes could have ekphrastic poetry generated by photos the students take with their phones around campus or the local area. This would be particularly interesting, I think, in a round robin where everyone has to come with pictures on their phones. Then everyone pulls their phone out, passes it to the person on the left and folks write for twenty minutes. Then pass the phones around again. Next twenty minutes. It’s a form of speed poetry. I’ve done something like it in class, but not this yet. Next time I sub in creative writing…

Composition courses could reinforce grammar by extra credit for pictures of poor grammar on signs. If there is a classroom blog, post the pictures there and vote on “most egregious” every week. That would make it a competition and spur the folks on to look for grammar errors.

This image is from pedagogy.dwrl.utexas.edu.

A visual rhetoric course could definitely take advantage of cell phone photographs.

Use the computers more effectively. Use the internet to teach information literacy skills, as detailed in the virtual library.

Teach technical literacy, as discussed in Business Week.

Integrate software usage into the classroom. Look at document design and graphics with desktop publishing. Show how databases and spreadsheet programs match up with what we are already doing in our classroom and how they can make our work more effective.

Use podcasts in the classroom.

Lecture: Do you have an amazing colleague who can speak on a particular topic but isn’t available during your class? Create a podcast.

Reading: Take advantage of podcasts and record the readings for the homework. Students can download the files and listen or read the text alone.

Creative writing: Have students in a poetry class perform their best poem (as defined by them) and create a virtual poetry reading for your class. Their parents will be thrilled to access their work and hear what others in the class were doing. Students who are thinking about your school and interested in creative writing will be able to hear works read by people like them and published on the internet.

Inverted Classroom
While I am not a math person, the inverted class technique, from Casting Out Nines, looks good.

Learning new things on our own initiative and without formal instruction in a classroom setting is as natural to humans as breathing. Indeed you could say that it’s the capacity to learn in this way that makes us human. But somehow many students think otherwise.

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