It’s hard to hear, it’s hard to say, but we’ve all heard and said it at one point- “Those that can’t do, teach.” We know it’s not always true, especially with how many instructors have “done,” but take a vested interest in spending the rest of their occupational lives sharing what they’ve learned; thanks you guys. But we all know there are those that get teaching certificates and skate by on life three month summers at a time. They regurgitate old information, they don’t seek for cutting edge knowledge, and they really are there to satisfy graduation requirements all students must fulfill. Here’s the catch- Collaborative and distance education is changing all that.
How many of us have taken an online class and thought, “Wow, this is much simpler, easier, and more efficient than going to class physically.” That’s when you look down at your pajamas and feel like you’ve somehow cheated the system, won the academic lottery. That system is soon to be THE system, as budget cuts are leading school districts and higher ed. programs to pinch their pennies- that means the weak links gotta go, just like every other industry has been doing for centuries in America. Now, with video conferencing and digital distance education, many are failing to find a reason to fork out hefty tuition, get in their cars and pay $6 a day to park, walk a mile to two classes, and make the long trek home, all inbetween work and play. The argument of course, is that students need to be engaged, they need to see, hear, smell, touch and feel the lecture…wait… how many lectures in college involve any of those senses?! So maybe the argument is not the physical presence, but the engagement- students need to be able to ask questions in real time, spread ideas with other students, etc… Is this a challenge solved by Web 2.0?
A recent article by Mashable lists three ways educators can engage with students via social media in the classroom- come on educators, we all know they’re on their phones the whole time anyways, so we may as well distract them in the direction of education and away from the angry birds! #1 Skype to learn languages. I could listen to by suburbanite, very caucasian teacher speak to me in an unpolished, long-gone updated Spanish accent, or I could connect with a classroom in Chihuahua and trade blows with the real deal. Shouldn’t be a difficult set up with everyone in the world desperately hoping to learn English, right? #2 Fighting cell phones is a losing battle. Educators, embrace the wave. Research has proven that workers that are allowed to access internet for casual perusal a few times a day are more productive. Perhaps they’re worrying less about their personal email, what’s going on in the world, maybe they feel rewarded for working hard, whatever it is, it’s the same with students. How powerful is it when a student struggling in class texts a teacher and gets a response. The student doesn’t have to wait to be humiliated in class the next day, but rather is empowered and feeling special that the teacher directly communicates with them. #3 Twitter is an incredible micro-blogging tool to solve the blackboard, hidden, 90’s themed message boards tucked away in University registration websites.
How about virtual field trips? Of course we students would rather get into a rocketship and enter zero gravity in space, but I’m no Backstreet Boy with an extra $20mil for that hook up. But students can be taken into space via video. Video used to be a teacher’s way of slacking off, “Here, kids, watch this while I catch a snooze on my desk.” Not anymore. Video is one of the most excellent ways to introduce students to things they could never see otherwise, especially in developing nations. Imagine the cost of flying Bill Gates into your hometown for a convocation speech. Why not just conference the guy in so the other 10,000 Colleges can tune in?