Dear students, please use your phones in class.

January 5, 2017

This past fall, for the first time in about 5 years, I was asked to teach a classroom-based course at the last minute due to a health issue with the instructor who was originally scheduled to teach. It was a big shift to go back into the classroom after working online for so long.

Before the course even began I e-mailed the entire class to let them know that I expected them to bring a device (laptop, tablet or phone) to class. I was perfectly transparent that I’d be expecting them to use their devices throughout class for learning purposes to look things up, share information and do projects together during class time.

Students used their devices to take notes, look up articles or websites or whatever they needed. We used Google docs to take notes and work on projects in real time.

It was a 3-hour class, so we also took a break halfway through. I found that most of students took some time during their break to text or check their email. Most of them self-regulated so they were doing personal stuff during break time, but if they did happen to check their e-mail during class, I didn’t chastise them. My attitude is that everyone in a graduate-level course is an adult and they can figure it out.

I aimed to keep my “lecturing” to a minimum. I had students learn through activities, games and projects. They had to work on specific tasks or activities during class, often with a partner or in groups, so they were busy the whole time.

I have changed my teaching approach dramatically over the years. I talk way less than I used to. Now, I focus on having my students engage in more doing and less sitting-and-listening.

Some profs still think it is a good idea to stand up and lecture for 3 hours. If all you’re going to do is ask students to sit there and listen for 3 hours, you’d better be a spectacularly captivating speaker is all I can say.

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21 Characteristics of 21st Century Learners

December 7, 2011

Whether you are a teacher, a parent, an aunt or an uncle, it is important to know that today’s students are wildly different in some ways, from past generations.

21st Century learners…

  1. Want to have a say in their education. They’ll respond better when their voices are heard.
  2. Often have higher levels of digital literacy than their parents or teachers. They don’t know a world without computers.
  3. Expect transparency in their parents, teachers and mentors. They’ll see right through you. (Makes it really hard to plan a surprise birthday party for them!)
  4. Want you to tell them when you have messed up, apologize for it, and move on. Everyone messes up. No big deal. Just don’t try to hide it. If you do, they are likely to post it on Facebook.
  5. Don’t care as much about having a job as they do about making a difference. The very concept of a “job” has changed so much in the past decade, the future is about making a difference.
  6. Demand the freedom to show their wild creativity. 21st century learners balk at rote learning and memorizing. They’ll do it if you make them, but be prepared to let them loose to be creative, too.
  7. Want to connect with others in real time on their own terms. They want their social media, their phones and their mobile technology. They want to be connected. All the time. In a way that makes sense to them (not necessarily to you).
  8. Collaborate amazingly well. They love teamwork and figuring things out with their friends.
  9. Really can multi-task. To do other wise is… yawn! Bo-ring!
  10. Appreciate a “trial and error” approach to learning new skills. Thank you, video-game industry.
  11. Learn by doing. Just try making them sit down and learn from you by watching. See what happens.
  12. Have a “can do” attitude. Of course, they can do it, silly! There is nothing to be afraid of.
  13. Thrive in an atmosphere of controlled challenge. They must be challenged or they zone out, but they need structure, too.
  14. Have multicultural awareness and appreciation. This generation is more aware of a variety cultures, countries and ways of life than any generation before them.
  15. Open to change. Really, what’s the big deal?
  16. Are equal parts “consumer” and “creator”. Today’s learners download their own songs and apps from iTunes… and then they create their own stuff and upload it to share with others.
  17. Increasingly aware of the world around them. From the environment to politics, today’s learners are asking questions and demanding answers.
  18. Know where to go to find information. Google was first incorporated in 1998. 21st century learners have never known a world without Google.
  19. Are better educated than any generation before them. (See #17.) 21st century learners really do know more than their parents (but that doesn’t necessarily make them wiser!)
  20. Expect inter-disciplinarity. It is we, the older generation, who organize topics into “subjects”. The 21st century learner understands that subjects are inherently interconnected. Like, duh!
  21. Know that they are the future. They look at their parents and their peers and understand that the world’s future rests in their hands. (Wouldn’t it make you just a little bit cocky, too?)

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Kids and Gaming: Let’s Talk About It

February 25, 2011

Technology and gaming can cause tension in families. Some parents become exasperated at what they believe to be their children’s over-use of technology. Gamers enjoy the sense of achievement, exhilaration and “flow” they experience.

The notion of “flow” has been documented by scholars such as Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and others. It is difficult to explain, but when you experience it, you know.

Objectives

  • To watch an educational video focused on technology as a family.
  • To discuss the pros and cons of gaming for individuals, families and communities.
  • To explore the notion of responsible gaming and how to use technology skills for the benefit of others.
  • To offer perspectives on what activities offer a sense of achievement, exhilaration and “flow” to both children and parents.

Activity

Watch Jane McGonigal’s 2010 TED talk “Gaming Can Make a Better World” (20:02) together as a family.

Conversation questions

  • What do you think of McGonigal’s idea that gaming can make a better world? Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  • How are you using technology now in your daily life? Do you over-use technology? Under-use technology? What do these terms mean, anyway?
  • How can you use technology to help others? (This can include things like helping family members improve their technology literacy, using technology skills in volunteer and community work, etc.)
  • What other activities in your life give you a sense of achievement and exhilaration?

Further reading for parents

Csíkszentmihályi, Mihály (1996), Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, New York: Harper Perennial.
Csíkszentmihályi, Mihály (1996), Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life, Basic Books.
Csíkszentmihályi, Mihály (2003), Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning, New York: Penguin Books.

Download a 1-page copy of this activity from Scribd:

View this document on Scribd

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


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