Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Social networking: use and guidelines

The current assignment (due post-exam, of course) is to research and present findings on the presence and use of social media in corporate settings. As with anything new, the policies lag behind the actual use. One student (from a previous class of mine) found a Social Media Governance site, which contains blogging-related policies and/or guidelines from 99 organizations. While I've not read them all, my current favorite is the Yahoo! Personal Blog Guidelines 1.0. I like the common-sense, treat-them-as-grownups approach...and the lessons learned from the "experienced" bloggers inside Yahoo!. Our interest in this course is whether the use of social media is an extension of corporate strategy...or a bandwagon leap. The early discoveries are intriguing, as are the student opinions.

On a micro-level, the presence and use of laptops and cell phones in class is equally risky. Though I was taught that people tend to rise to the level of our expectations for them, I've found the belief to be both a truth and a trap. In this course, social networking--and, by extension, the associated technology--is potentially an enabler and a distraction. The students are generally quite respectful, though, giving attention to peer presentations and to my occasional formal "lectures."

But it takes everything in me not to walk around and check...are they on Facebook? Email? Twittering? (Doubly painful, that possibility.) What keeps me from checking with any regularity is the knowledge that faculty meetings and business meetings provide the same temptation to professionals who are expected to manage their own behavior. Perhaps this, too, is one of the learning experiences...for me, as well as for the class.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Unintended consequences

It's time for the first exam and we're worried, "we" being the students and the instructor. Despite my belief that the teams are learning (they tell me so, as does their work), we wonder if the class will perform well on the multiple choice exam. Are we focused on the grades or on the learning?

I asked every student to write five multiple choice exam questions (for a practice exam) using Bloom's revised taxonomy, with a focus on application, analysis, evaluation, and creation questions. They found it hard to do. We had a lively discussion about the difference between the learning they say is happening in the course and the use of multiple choice exam grades to assess learning. The first exam is later this week and the unintended consequence is a temporary loss of focus on the learning.

And on a related note, I'm aghast to learn that a prep school library in New England is going "bookless." Lest I be accused of leanings in that direction, let me write for the record that I think all students should read. Books. Nothing replaces the feel of a well-loved book in my hand. I can't imagine curling up on a rainy day with an electronic device. Shakespeare and Dante should be read on paper...and not the paper in my printer. Though I don't require a textbook for this course, I bring four textbooks with me, make them available during class, and encourage the students to use them as resources. And they do.

And when we get through this first exam and back to the learning, we'll be talking about books. Specifically, what is the one book each of them would want to have available were they on a mission-critical strategic project. It's all about the learning and the reading...and I don't know how to accomplish one without the other.

Friday, September 11, 2009

"Why has it taken so long?"

Yesterday, the five teams were working on assigned projects and I was drifting among them answering questions or providing clarification. (I do seem to have abundant opportunities for clarification, probably a function of my errant belief that I communicate clearly.) During this working time, I sat down with one of the teams and responded to a question about why I'd made a specific assignment.

My general approach to questions is to be as honest and transparent as possible, so I explained my thought process for designing the project the way I had. I braced for the expected refutation (why it was more work than necessary, for example) and was momentarily stunned to hear the follow-up question: "Why has it taken so long to figure out that this is the way we prefer to learn?"

If ambivalence is the simultaneous experience of both positive and negative feelings, my reaction would qualify. It's thrilling to hear at least one student say she feels heard and challenged in this way. It's disheartening to hear how unusual this seems to her.

Every professor I know genuinely wants to reach his or her students and devotes considerable time and energy to teaching. We seem to need more dialog between ourselves and our students, as we really do have the same goals, I think, of engaged, motivated, and well educated students.