Well, now that I came up with a catchy title, I have your attention...right?
I saw, and heard, a lot of interesting things yesterday. Unfortunately, I did not see ONE sweatervest. Anyway...one question that I heard in every talk that I went to was "This sounds great but how are you assessing participation?" or some variation of this. It kind of started to nag me a bit and I have to blame that all on Scott and Cole. Before this class I was a typical student, feeling pressured to produce or say something, ANYTHING, so that my teachers would know that I knew something, or at least hope that it would appear that way. I did not want to lose my participation points!! They have to be the easiest points to earn in a class. Say something, even if it is wrong or does not make any sense, and you get a few points tossed at you; quantity seemed to reign over quality. I now have a different view on participation. If you are going to use old school participation to assess your students, you have to give points to ANY student who say ANYTHING in your class. If you award participation points based on quality rather than quantity, does that mean that you are punishing students because they are unable to learn/understand the content? Could that not be in turn seen as a failure on the part of the teacher? So if a student is going to lose, or not gain, participation points because they are not learning anything, the teacher should also be losing participation points. If learning happens through participation, and a student is showing evidence of learning, can it not then be assumed that they have participated in some way; whether through reading, listening, or googling outside of class? So if you follow along with this philosophy of learning, there would be no need to assess the participation of students since learning would be a sign of participation.
So this leads me into what I saw at the symposium. The first talk I went to was "First Year Students Blogging: Lessons Learned." Students were asked to blog and keep an online journal or sorts. Every student had their own blog space and, if I remember correctly, they were to comment on one anothers' posts as well. I was really interested in hearing how this had changed the class and the "learning" of the students, but there were a lot of questions being asked about logistical issues, and the talk was rushed at the end. (The symposium should have longer session times BTW) There were some "snags" in using the blogs for this class; some students just did not blog; others would blog but not "participate" in class (participation = speaking in this class); and students were not always tagging their blog posts so it was hard to keep track of who was leaving blog posts and responding to them since all of the students had their own blog sites. I think that the use of blogs in any class can only benefit the teachers and the students by extending the discussion outside of the classroom. There is an adjustment period for both the teachers and the students, they need to become familiar with the medium and all that it can offer. Getting students, especially first year students, to think outside the classroom is probably a big challenge. How do you get them use to the idea that learning is continuously occurring? Another theme that I heard at the symposium, was the idea of engaging students by making the information seem relavant to them and their lives. What are they going to need to know and use 10 years from now?
Switching gears a bit...the second session talk I went to was: "Evolution of Biology Instruction to Increase Student Success in a Large Class." This was interesting to me, not only because it was biology related and they mentioned snakes, but also because the idea of getting a large lecture-based class to be more engaging and interactive for the students. I was not impressed at first because they were talking about Angel and having students taking quizes online instead of on paper. An electronic test/quiz is no more engaging than a paper one. But then it started to get interesting. They discussed how they were able to link Angel to GoogleDocs, Kaltura, which I had never heard of before, and a few other various applications. They also have the students working in wikispaces and they are creating wikibooks of the course which will be available as OPEN CONTENT once completed. What an awesome idea! The students are more than just consumers, they are active participants in their education. They also need to know and understand the content in order to apply it and explain it to others, rather than just regurgitating the textbook definitions. Speaking of textbooks, the students are not required to buy a textbook which they will most likely never even open. All the information they need is available online. Open content and no textbooks??? Shhhhh, don't tell the publishers!
Overall, I think there was a lot of good discussion going on at the symposium about where the future of education is going. It was pretty inspiring to hear some of the talks, especially Dr Wesch's keynote speech.
2 of my fav quotes from the symposium:
"...your grandma can google you and find out you're not straight..."
"...for a high school student, wikipedia is like porn..."