Mr. S is a seasoned programming instructor and college student mentor. He works for a vocational college in Vancouver and teaches various programming languages and technology certification courses. He is also a technology mentor for college students who seek career advice. Mr. S was interviewed through Google Hangout at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 30, 2017.
Incorporating well planned and tested technology to promote better engagement
Mr. S stated that “students will be engaged more in the class by doing and participating.” He uses coding exercises utilizing free IDE editors and free online code testing tools. He also distributes his lectures through Google Docs before/after the class, so that students can preview and revisit his lectures. He cannot stress enough that we need to be cautious on when implementing technology in the classroom because technology that is not carefully evaluated, and as result misapplied, can be a huge distraction. He also emphasized that the process of implementing technology should be quick and easy, so teachers can spend more time on class curriculum than on learning the technology. He firmly believes that the most important aspect of integrating educational technology is to create learning environments in which students actively construct knowledge in cognitive partnerships with technology (Hooper & Rieber, 1995).
Incorporating technology for better assessment
Mr. S discussed how challenging it was to incorporate assessment technology in his classes due to lack of tool availability in the school. He stated, “the college doesn’t provide the budget to buy any code testing software so I need to use free online code testing tools such as jsFiddle and Coderpad.” He was quite satisfied with the free online tools and said they worked great for his courses. Mr. S stated that the results from the shared coding exercise help him assess students and decide whether they need more tailored programming and supplemental activities.
Aid in gender and cultural differences
Mr. S discussed how helpful it was to implement individual weekly chat sessions using Skype/Google Hangout to remove cultural and gender barriers. He stated that “some students are very shy to ask questions in front of the class, so they prefer to use the chat session.” He added individual chat session worked well with female students as well as with students who hesitate to ask questions in public for cultural reasons. MR S. also mentioned that “This approach only works because the class size is small (15-20 students max).” He wouldn’t be able to offer students such sessions when class sizes are large.
In conclusion, Mr. S firmly believes that a well-designed and well-planned technology incorporation process is key for successful technology implementation in the classroom.
Hooper, S. & Rieber, L.P. (1995). Teaching with technology. In A.C. Ornstein (Ed.), Teaching: Theory into practice (pp. 154-170). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
I enjoyed reading your post, YooYoung. The last bit “some students are very shy to ask questions in front of the class, so they prefer to use the chat session” caught my attention. I think this is one of the best things about asynchronous/chat features. Live class discussions can definitely suffer from one-at-a-time and only ever hearing from the more confident/engaged members of class. I like the MET discussion board setup (post one, comment on two) in that it requires that everyone work up the courage to participate in their own time with very few barriers.
Last semester, one MET course I saw many other students that went consecutive weeks without receiving a single comment on their posts. Others had a good idea and received lots of chatter. Eventually, it had a chilling effect on the participation, and never was resolved, really. Should we insist on spreading the joy? Does that create its own problems?
I agree with you on the MET discussion setup. It is nice to hear from cohorts comments and provide feedback to other cohorts. However, I see your points regarding some postings don’t get any comments. Indeed, it was my case at the beginning of MET courses. My background is not in teaching, so my postings are not always relevant to teachers so had a hard time getting comments. It has been better since I am in my 9th MET courses and have more related ideas regarding educational technology and educations. It is a definitely challenge to promote distributed attentions to every posting in the MET discussion forum.
I also really liked the idea of a chat/google hangout session. But my class size is 160 students, and as your interviewee pointed out, individual chat sessions would not be possible with this number. Do you think you would get the same type of response if its forum based? Would those shy students be able to post their questions, though it would be read by all the students? I tried a forum session with my course last year, but it definitely was not successful. I think over the course of 7 weeks, there were 7 or so questions on the forum of which 3 or 4 were by the same person. I can’t remember if it was Susan Cain or not, but I remember hearing a TED talk where the speaker mentioned that our education system was made for extroverts. The individual chat sessions would really accommodate those introverts that don’t feel comfortable speaking out in class. . . but I question whether forums are much the same as a large classroom and don’t cater to introverted individuals as much.
I took some MOOC courses that a forum is the main communication channel. It is true that extroverts contribute more during discussions. I witnessed that some forums remedied the situation by allowing students to use nicknames other than real names in forums. The nicknames can add anonymity and encourage introverts to speak up. It is a difficult problem to tackle. I believe that it is educators’ role to help introverts share more by providing a safe place to share and accommodating their own pace to speak up. Another option could be adding mandatory/minimum postings like this course. It could help introverts push their boundaries.