Thursday, December 17, 2009

So, what now?

A recent edition of Campus Technology listed 5 Higher Ed Tech Trends to Watch in 2010. According to the technology experts, we can expect to see more interactive and dynamic classrooms, to use more ease-of-access (to both information and people) tools, and to use existing technologies in diverse ways. What's exciting about the list is, well, everything. What's frustrating is that our own experiment has met with mixed results.

The feedback from the students in my class echo the trends and comments of the technology experts at other colleges and universities. One student who took the time to provide written feedback said, "I liked the classroom setup and being able to sit in little circles with our team every day. It helped open up conversation." For teams working together, this seems a good thing.

But in order for the CLC to work well, we have to limit the number of students in a particular course and, ideally, create more CLCs to maximize the availability of the technology and the collaboration. We've not been able to get approval for limiting class sizes, however, so the CLC will cease to exist in its present form. The technology will remain, but the collaborative configuration won't.

So, was the experiment a failure? Not when you consider the perspective of Oliver Wendal Holmes, Jr., when he said "Man's mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions." Taking a risk and trying something new may turn out far differently than we intended; it's in the risking and the trying that we discover growth, new possibilities, and change. I've learned things this semester that will make me a better teacher next semester. And, hopefully, we have 30 students who will be vocal about their preferences and who may, someday, be in a position to shape change for others.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

More fun than is probably legal in the classroom

This is how I've responded for most of the semester when asked "so, how's that strategy class going?" And it's true. It's not that we've played; in fact, we've worked very hard. What's been fun, though, is watching the phenomenal things students can do.

Recently, all of the instructors using the Collaborative Learning Classroom were asked for feedback on the room. Part of what I wrote:

The thought of returning to a regular classroom feels like punishment, after using the CLC; even without the technology, the room configuration is much more conducive to non-lecture types of learning/teaching. But the technology provides learning opportunities that complement the configuration, such as having students find (real time) answers to questions they pose, pursue related avenues of inquiry, or find what’s happened since the publication date of the article or text. Ideally, students would be able to bring their laptops and/or smart phones to class, where they become part of the curriculum, rather than part of the power struggle.

I've been able to get to know these students far better than I've been able to manage when teaching in a traditional classroom; maybe that says more about me than about the classroom. But I can't remember when I've enjoyed the learning experience more. And the quality of the work done by these students is nothing short of awesome.