Online classes v. traditional classes

Dr. Sunny Jiang Schultz of Lee College spoke on the topic of “The Byte is Mightier than the Pen” on Friday, March 6, at CCTE’s State of the Profession at UT-Austin’s AT&T Conference Center.

She spent less than twenty minutes talking about her online classes versus her traditional classes for the same course, though she has a significantly longer paper available. However, in that time, she managed to convince me that online courses have great potential to be better composition courses.

She did a comparison of completed assignments between her traditional (f2f) and online (net) classes.

Quiz questions: f2f 83, net 140
Sentence revision: f2f 2, net 4
Summaries: f2f 2, net 4
Elaborations: f2f 1, net 2
Papers: f2f 3, net 3
Short paragraphs: f2f 10, net 50
Library usage: f2f 2, net 10 (through data base accesses for required assignments)

stud-w-computer-from-above-bigAnother aspect of her presentation that I especially appreciated was her discussion of how she works with her students to make sure that they are prepared for and committed to an online course. She provides a week and a half for the students to complete a very detailed online orientation. If they do not finish that, she drops them. If they aren’t committed, they won’t be able to do the course and both they and she will know it right away.

My favorite metaphor from her talk was when she said, “Writing skills are becoming an endangered species.”

2 good links on low socioeconomic status students

Berkeley has a new study that shows that “the brains of low-income children function differently from the brains of high-income kids.”

“Kids from lower socioeconomic levels show brain physiology patterns similar to someone who actually had damage in the frontal lobe as an adult,” said Robert Knight, director of the institute and a UC Berkeley professor of psychology. “We found that kids are more likely to have a low response if they have low socioeconomic status, though not everyone who is poor has low frontal lobe response.”

Previous studies have shown a possible link between frontal lobe function and behavioral differences in children from low and high socioeconomic levels, but according to cognitive psychologist Mark Kishiyama, first author of the new paper, “those studies were only indirect measures of brain function and could not disentangle the effects of intelligence, language proficiency and other factors that tend to be associated with low socioeconomic status. Our study is the first with direct measure of brain activity where there is no issue of task complexity.”

The Washington Post has an interesting article on whether or not people should ignore poverty’s impact. Or at least that’s what the title says.

Should teachers ignore poverty and teach and be held responsible if the students don’t learn? Or should teachers teach and know that poverty is going to have an impact on their students?

One writer said:

Of course, there are teachers who give up far too easily and make excuses. I think of myself as a reasonably hard worker and someone who gives every child my best effort.

But there are fantastic doctors who have patients that die. Is it always the doctor’s fault? Certainly there are patients who will not survive despite a great doctor’s heroic efforts.

Another agrees with that idea, but has a different metaphor:

Imagine a football coach who designs his plays with no regard to the talents of his players, half of whom are on crutches, deaf or blind. And even if they are not so handicapped, if they have no ability to catch or throw a ball, running a pass-oriented West Coast style offense will not work.

Someone else had a very different view:

Full personal responsibility for student achievement and refusing to blame other factors does NOT mean we ignore the other factors; it simply means we view other factors as challenges and problems that require solutions, and we view the possibility of solutions as fitting inside our personal sphere of influences vs. shrugging our shoulders and giving up.

I think that there can be a middle ground. Don’t give up just because they are in poverty. Those students can learn. But don’t hold the teachers responsible for teaching them everything their parents should have been teaching them for the first six years of their lives either.

Is it possible that the issue of the brain isn’t poverty so much as it is low stimulation?

I would like to see the study replicated and split the poverty kids into two groups. Have one group where the parents are attending college or clearly doing something to move themselves out of poverty. In the other group they can have whomever. Does that change the picture?

Could it be that the damage is not poverty but the lack of intellectual involvement?

Just a thought.

It comes from the fact that my family was desperately poor when I was younger. Until I was about 10 we often went to bed hungry. But I doubt sincerely that my brain shows any dysfunctions.

One Way to Get Students to Pay Attention

One way to get students to pay attention, and get involved, is to point out real-life examples of whatever you are going to discuss with them.

I was reading today and saw an incredibly visual metaphor that I am going to post here so that I can bring it up to my students later.

“It’s slower than a herd of turles stamping through peanut butter.”

from Doc in the Box

Blogs are to Twitter what ovens are to microwaves.

Blogs are not dead. Neither are they passe. Karine Joly wrote on about the issue of blogs and whether they are, as Wired’s Paul Boutin said, dead.

No, they aren’t dead.

When I can have entire freshman classes (12 to 25 students) who don’t even know what the word blog means, then there is no reason to say that the time of blogs is over. And when I can use them to motivate students to write for themselves and for others, there is no reason to say that the usefulness of blogs has passed.

Because you are an early adopter of technology and new technology has come along is no reason to abandon an earlier technology whose usefulness continues. We have computers, but we still use books. (And I am glad for both.)

Imho blogs are to Twitter what ovens are to microwaves.

You may use a microwave a lot more, but you still have an oven and use it for substantial cooking. Who wants to throw cakes and cookies in the microwave? How about the Thanksgiving turkey?

A metaphor for teaching

There are great possibilities in this metaphor. I think I like it and will use it regularly.

We are to regard the mind not as a piece of iron to be laid upon the anvil and hammered into any shape, nor as a block of marble in which we are to find the statute by removing the rubbish, nor as a receptacle into which knowledge may be poured; but as a flame that is to be fed, as an active being that must be strengthened to think and feel–to dare, to do, and to suffer.
– Mark Hopkins, Induction address as president of Williams College, 1836.

Found at Heroes Not Zombies.

Irony is found in the previous post being “First Snow.”