Encouraging Social Activity in the Classroom

Encouraging Social Activity in the Classroom

Encouraging Social Activity in the Classroom

Posted on Anti-Bullying

We often meet with university and college faculty across the country. Their current Q+A structure can feel more laborious than engaging. Certainly, many faculty members use all types of sharing platforms for more informal, informal student interactions in their classes. For example, students utilize podcasting, and each of them is open to experimenting with social networking to engage and collaborate with each other. When contemplating the subject of digital technology, it is often tricky to recognize where the student is in relation to the faculty member.

This is the dilemma faced when undergraduate students contact a professor, ask a question, and want to call the professor to discuss the topic. It doesn’t always help to see the professor’s complete profile with links to more information. However, sometimes we feel that a student should contact the instructor by email address to discuss a potential concern. Regardless of the medium, faculty can play a positive role in these student interactions through dissemination of knowledge and facilitation of respectful discussions. It is when faculty members de-emphasize this topic at the beginning of a conversation that important information may slip through the cracks. The faculty should not feel the need to provide all the information at the outset, but rather extend the relationship in a manner that has increased trust.

Increasing the credibility of campus email traffic using the technologies of the classroom is the subject of Professor David Poulson’s undergraduate research at Northwestern University. Poulson and his team use a “Shareability Test” to estimate how many students would share an article with someone if that sharing was recorded in a non-transcriptional manner. The results demonstrate that for the average undergraduate student, 81% of the average readership would share the article if it was recorded in this non-transcriptal manner. Even with an average of just 15 students, this rate of sharing is impressive!

One key element of this process is caution. The Shareability Test identifies the portion of the piece that could benefit from being recorded. Poulson and his team do not recommend that the portion of the article that is deemed only useful to one person be recorded. Additionally, the publication of any condensed transcript of the lesson or lecture content is debatable because that original information may be of the same or unique value to a variety of learners. Poulson maintains that this feature adds value because students can observe the sentiment and exchange thoughts with others.

Professor Poulson believes this degree of social sharing enhances student engagement in the classroom. Professor Poulson is a strong advocate of including a technologically enhanced ability to interact with faculty members in the future of higher education and the increase of social interaction between students and instructors. While the professor may not be the primary end user, he or she is willing to expend some energy in facilitating socializing outside of lecture. Much like how the student is encouraged to reach out to a professor by email to discuss his or her concerns or needs, so too should the professor encourage a faculty member to contact an individual student to further engage in a discussion. A faculty member can then better understand the feedback and concerns a student might have about a particular issue before presenting to a larger audience.

Using the technologies of the classroom to enhance learning is the next frontier for higher education technology adoption. If faculty members are monitoring and capturing new social interactions and activity for improving their teaching style, it will go a long way in curbing plagiarism, helping students reach their own levels of proficiency, and meeting their institutional needs. Because as a professor we have a heavy set of pedagogical obligations to meet in the classroom, one of our greatest tasks is to promote student quality and engagement. This goal is greatly enhanced through digitally enhanced learning. For more information on the Q+A process in the classroom, please review Professor Poulson’s research on Northwestern University’s website.

Katrina Schwartz is Director of Academic Innovation for The Personalized Learning Network. Katrina will be joining Kimberly H. Green and Linn Griffith on a new topic series for Anti-Bullying 365 at Anti-Bullying 365.org/teachers #ALtonDx

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