Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bardiac in the Smart Classroom: Are Instructors Bad Students?

I'm taking part in some faculty development stuff today and tomorrow, and this morning we're meeting in a "smart classroom" that's supposed to promote "active learning."  I taught a couple of weeks in this room last spring, filling in for a sick colleague, and it was sort of like theater in the round.  Theater in the round is great stuff at times, and challenging in all sorts of cool ways, but it's not the be all and end all of all theater experience or performance.  Neither is this classroom.

At any rate, I never felt like I got the hang of teaching in the room, but I'm told that some people love teaching in here when they use specific techniques.  I'm ready to see that!

The room is a big rectangle with six seating areas around the edge, each a sort of rectangular table with a rounded side.  The unrounded side is against the wall, where there's a big computer screen.  And there's a wireless keyboard thingy under each screen that can be moved around so that different people can type.

Each seating area has a small white board.  There are two bigger screens, on opposite sides of the room, so that, I think, everyone's supposed to be able to see whatever's put up on the screen.

At each seating area, on the hard drive thingy, there seems to be a single electric outlet (one outlet, not a typical double wall outlet).  Other than that, the only outlets I see are under one of the big screens in an otherwise unoccupied area of the room.


20 minutes of traditional lecture sort of presentation.  There's a comment about how you could use technology to give students a map of the Canterbury pilgrimage route for Chaucer. 

I'm the only person in the room who ever teaches Chaucer, so far as I know, so that's directed at me.  (I think I make some people nervous, so they try to reach out.)  But the thing is, a little map of the Canterbury pilgrimage is fairly traditional on the syllabus of a CT course, but other than a 10 second comment, it's not really worth much for understanding the tales or their contexts, is it?


We spent 7 minutes on group work, and put up stuff on our little boards, but I can't read all the boards and couldn't hear some people.


And now we're sort of getting talked at about what we put on our boards.  It's really hard to hear in here. 

We just got the "oooh, here's a cool app thingy."  Why would you use it?  "Oooo, it's so cool!"


More lecture.  Still hard to hear.

One really good question that came up: an instructor talked about trying to get her students to use Diigo collaboratively, but found it difficult.  Students don't tend to go log into a special program just to log in, so if you require it, then how?  Students are busy in all sorts of ways, and unless they find something really useful, they won't use it because it takes too much time. 

But the lectures aren't really addressing that.


Now there's a disagreement about whether an instructor should take time to teach students to export files or should just send a link to a how to video.  We've now spent ten minutes on this.  All very polite on the surface, but sort of not so much.  The discussion is very much happening on/to the other side of the room.  Of the four people at my table.  I'm typing; someone else is checking a phone, another reading, and one sitting looking at the conversation.  Oops.  Probably not good.

The instructor seems completely unaware that some of us aren't engaged.

Now we're discussing different High Schools.  (The question is how much tech students know or not.)


I had originally turned off my computer after the presentations started.  Then I reopened it out of  boredom. 

My question is: is an audience of teachers easier or harder as an audience than an audience of students?


I'm going to try again to pay attention.  Dog help me.


  1. Anonymous9:19 AM

    I did a semester-long teaching camp thing when I was untenured. When the teaching center people taught, it was pretty awful. When they had master teachers come in to demonstrate their own techniques, it was entertaining and informative, especially with the Q&A after. (Ironically I got terrible teaching evals that semester, partly because the camp took so much time.)

  2. This kind of stuff makes me sick to my stomach. Good luck with it.

  3. We've got a few active classrooms, and are getting a bunch more, in various configurations (including the one you describe, which I think would work well for my class, but I haven't yet seen that one, and I think we have only one or a few) this summer. I think they'll work for my comp classes; the main downside is that most of them don't even have one built-in device per group; students have to bring their own. That's going to create logistical issues that weren't present in classrooms full of identical university-supplied computers. So, while I'm not agin the whole trend, I do think it's going to create some issues (including the attention ones you mention, and no, not only in teachers being trained). And I'm not surprised that instructors are focusing on logistical/tech nuts and bolts, because, as we all know, many of our students really aren't that tech-literate (or at least give up easily when the tech is intended to facilitate school work), and solving such problems can take up a lot of instructional time.

  4. I am a bad student, I always have been - I find it almost impossible to sit and wait politely and attentively whilst the attention is on other students if I have nothing to do, and as someone who gets things quickly adn does the pre-reading and is likely ahead in the class book anyway, I tend to be in the front runners so I get bored a lot. I also really hate bad teaching development classes - ones where the obvious is explained with great detail and patronising-ness, ones where the technology plays up when it's supposed to be being 'sold' to us, pretty much anything led by the teaching centre people.

    I get really annoyed if people play with devices etc. in class, I think it's rude, but I'm sure that my tendency to ask a lot of questions and make asides to my neighbours when I feel shut out of the conversation is equally so - if I can't hear what's going on, I'd've asked, as politely as possible, but repeatedly - and then when 4 people were having a convo which wasn't relevant I'd ask my neighbour if THEY understood why it was relevant, and then I'd doodle on my notepad, and fidget, and ask them to speak up again... I try to shut up. I even keep tallies of how many other people have said stuff and try to let at least two different people speak before I speak again. But, gah! I've always been a bad student when I'm bored - maths was fine because the teacher always had extra problems one could work. In English and Language classes one could usually read different bits of the text book. i never had a bad history or geography teacher. In science I broke a few things by fiddling with them, and had a formal agreement with the physics department (bless them for addressing the problem!) that as long as I read a serious book I could read when I was bored even though reading under the table was officially banned (I read Plato's Republic and most of the Socratic dialogues during my final year of physics, I remember them better than the physics actually! The serious book rule was so that when someone - usually one Vicky - got into trouble for reading and complained that I was doing it, the teacher would simply point out the nature of the reading matter - Vicky was an eejit and read 'True Romance' magazine in class).

    A good teaching development session is really fun. Bad ones often provide a good way of meeting people from across campus who care about teaching, especially if they have plenty of comfort breaks. But technology rooms badly used are so much worse, in my experience, than conventional rooms badly used... which is an important lesson I take away for my own teaching!

  5. It's as though they were illustrating what DOESN'T work in teaching: droning on, too much noise, giving students yet another thing that they need a password for, something that you are invested in and they aren't (Diigo).