Friday, June 8, 2012

Reflections on the fear of technology

When I signed up for this seminar I signed up as one who does not own a television, and will never buy a smart phone.  I signed up as one who worries about becoming that old man who is out of touch with the ways of the world and how the next generation goes about navigating life online.  I carry by nature a distrust of things mechanical and high tech.  I prefer to begin writing projects in a notebook, and to engage students in a face to face Socratic style that emphasizes live interaction.

Taking this seminar has taught me several things.  First, I am not one who will ever fundamentally base my pedagogy on online resources and platforms. Second, employing online resources does indeed enhance the classroom environment of even professors such as myself.  Third, others have found ways to use online resources to increase the level of communal interaction in their classrooms using online platforms that challenge me to rethink further what can be accomplished online.

As the year progressed I created a larger space for online tools;  I used blogger to create an online source of information regarding assignments and had my students connect to my blog with blogs of their own.  I encouraged them to post links on their blogs that tied in with Environmental Ethics and gave them opportunity to announce these links in class.  Some of these links generated significant discussion in the comments box.   I had my students post a reflection essay on the "fracking " lecture event that was held during Green week and as a part of this assignment they also commented on each others reflections.  This was an extra credit assingment and about half of my environmental students participated.

I was honest with my students during the semester that I myself was just beginning to learn about online tools and we commiserated together as we set up our blogs and solved problems often relying on the more adept students to help.  The main value of this seminar for me was having my fear of the online world chipped away at and having solid guidance as I took a few steps into this water.  I am thankful for having participated in this seminar even though I do not think that I took advantage of the resources available as much as I could have.  Yet, creating a blog and using it to facilitate interaction was, for me at least, a large step.

Finally, I would like to note that the themes of online interaction also affected what I did in the classroom.  I dedicated much more time than I have in the past to peer review exercises, especially in regards to essay development.  This improved my student's writing immensely and I would not have become as aware of the value of such peer feedback activities if I had not been involved with this seminar.


  1. I'm delighted to hear you will continue to go hybrid and keep a great balance with pedagogy and web tools. The Peer Review does take a chunk of time, but it makes our students grow exponentially. Loved reading your posts!

  2. Initially, I shared some of the feelings that you expressed in your reflection. For the first time,I was exploring a social media to engage my students in learning mathematics. To get them started, I had them work on an activity during a laboratory class. Most of them got hooked on this new environment and continued to use it during the term, whereas a few sporadically engaged on the online activities. Overall, I felt that my students were more engage in the learning process in this class than my other classes. As your students became better writers through blogging, my students became better problem solvers.

  3. Maria and I were just talking about the power of commiserating with students and how useful a pedagogical tool that can be. This seminar definitely made me feel like a student again -- excited to be learning something new but also a bit clueless and embarrassed at how much I don't know. It helped me understand where my students are coming from, especially those who are not adept at using online tools. The fact that I was also struggling with the technology at times helped them relate to me and trust me a bit more, I think. I told them about my participation in this seminar and they seemed to appreciate that I would take a year-long class just to serve them better in the classroom.

  4. I am impressed with your openness to Web 2.0 technologies. I think it's really important for students to see that everyone struggles as they learn something new.

  5. I cannot agree more with your post! In the beginning of this year, I was thinking that I would need to be tech savvy to use online tools in my courses. It turned out that this was not possible, especially for art appreciation courses where I always found a few engineering or computer science majors.