Friday, December 27, 2013

MOOCs, Ipads and Smartphones

Been tinkering with these handheld electronic devices to figure out how I could better design classroom instruction to make use of these.  Agreed, they are great at delivering video.  You could say that they are mini-televisions, and so, you can easily use them to deliver short, important content videos to students in or out of the classroom.  If you want, you can "flip" a class around.

They are less useful for delivering text.  The key is the amount of text.  Tweets, instagrams, posts, short passages of text can be delivered pretty well, but longer, more substantial pieces of text can be problematic.  And since I teach history, that is a problem, since the study of history is so much based on texts.  Even reading digital books doesn't work all that well unless you break up the reading into short segments.

Something that I haven't explored, but it might make sense to use the handheld devices as simple, feedback, assessment tools.  For example, the old "murkiest point" tool, where you have students jot down the thing that they least understand from class today; that might work well in the digital world where they can just text those to you as the instructor.

The Reality of MOOCs

Have now completed three MOOCs.  One actually required some pretty detailed work; two required simply taking some multiple choice quizzes.  As a public lecture medium, or as a marketing device, I think that a MOOC has a lot of potential, but it takes a lot of effort and resources to make great video to tap into that potential.  For colleges, etc. that are already facing difficult budget choices, I wonder whether those resources are going to be available for simply promotional purposes.

The problem, of course, is that teaching and learning involve more than simply a teacher talking and a student listening, which is much of the mechanism of the MOOC.  That reminds me of my freshman chemistry class with the four hundred students in the lecture hall listening to the professor talking and then taking multiple choice tests to prove that we either learned, or didn't learn, the material.  That model, which is the model of the MOOC, has been around in higher education a long time now.  If that is how, you are going to teach, and for some subjects/purposes/etc, that might be appropriate, then the MOOC will work.