Facilitating Learner Voice and Presence in the Classroom Using Mobile Devices
I recently started another face-to-face class with undergraduates – about 3/4 of them in the 18-20 age group. I work towards a learner-centric classroom based on the following principles:
- Give learners multiple opportunities to be heard and seen through multiple modalities – verbal, written, visual.
- Get to know each learner as an individual – this is in line with my belief of the educator as an ethnographer. Really see every learner in the room.
- Insure that the learners see one another as much as (or better yet more than) the content and the teacher.
- Provide ongoing opportunities to connect with the learners and for them to connect with each other.
- Use strategies, tools, and materials that the learners use outside of the school
- Make sure learners know that they are significant, important, that they matter- see Angela Maiers You Matter.
- Use learning activities that are engaging and authentic with the knowledge that the learners are giving their time (and sometimes money) to be in the learning environment. (I feel an obligation not to “steal” my learners time with activities that are boring, useless – painful for them.)
As such, my first classes are always focused on having the students get to know one another and building a sense of community. The only content-related activity during the first class is going over the syllabus which occurs during hour 3 or 4 of the class – not the first activity.
Another one of my driving principles is continual improvement. I have been an educator for a few decades but I am always looking for ways to improve my courses. Mobile technologies have evolved to a point where they can be leveraged in the class. What follows are the mobile activities I used in this course to get to know the learners, have them get to know one another, and build a sense of community.
Students located a photo, song, or video from their mobile devices that best represented them. Learners then shared their media and the reasons for their selections.
Every student had a mobile device with personal content on it. Even though the majority of students were under 21, a few were in their 20s and two were over 40 years old. Most students selected a photo to share, two selected videos, and two shared a favorite song.
Students were asked to choose their most important 10 values from a list of values. They were then asked to narrow their list to three values, their core values. This was followed up with giving them the task of finding objects around the school that symbolized these values. Once found, they took pictures of the objects using their mobile devices and emailed the photos directly to a Flickr page set up for this purpose. Lisa Nielson describes this process in her blog entry, Using Flickr to Collect Images Captured on Cell Phones.
I can unequivocally say that there was close to 100% engagement by 100% of the 16 students the entire 3 hours of this first class.
Guess Whose Eyes
My goal is to continue this engagement and connection outside of the classroom. A Facebook page has been established to have them post their class reflections and for addition community building activities. For example, I took photos of each student’s eyes during the first class. These were posted on Facebook as Guess Whose Eyes – students are already making their guesses.
Facebook for Class Reflection
. . . and the reviews have begun to come in via their class reflections on the course Facebook page.
This significance of this post cannot be understated. The young woman who posted this is extremely shy and reserved (possibly has Asperger’s syndrome). She told me at a break that she is not a people person.
Watching the magic occur during these learner-centric activities cannot be understated. Seeing the engagement, smiles, connections happen during class is why I am an educator.
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