As the semester is winding down, I am reflecting on how I began using webconferences to extend my classroom this fall. To allow students to still participate in class even when they were not physically in Austin, I offered five of our classes with a webconferencing option. We still had our normal class, but students could attend in person, attend online, or come to class and still log in online. The first time I allowed students to chat during class I was really worried if they would stay on topic, and the chat was rolling on the screen behind me as I lectured. It worked incredibly well. Some students participated much more via chat than they ever did verbally. The chat conversations were very helpful to our classroom conversation and I found that I often let the chat drive the creation of additional examples. We also used polling as a way to quickly gauge perceptions and allow students to interact in a different way. I became more comfortable as the semester progressed and the students tried out different ways of participating. I’m asking my students their opinions of this practice and I hope they found it as helpful as I did.
Archive for Workplace Technologies Course
My workplace technologies course will get a visit (via Webconference) from Jenn Davis, of cheeptweet. I like having students be able to understand the theories we study (diffusion of innovations) through real life examples. The diffusion of social media is very interesting right now and have several studies examining these effects.
It is hard to imagine that we are already back for the fall semester. I am very excited to teach two of my undergraduate classes in the same semester. The classes are very synergistic, yet contain very different content. I hope to provide my students with the opportunity to attend lectures that interest them in my other class. Too often we get so busy that we (myself included) do not take advantage of learning opportunities, so I hope at least a couple of students find this beneficial. I teach my Communicating to Build Sales Relationships course MWF 12-1pm and my Workplace Technologies course MWF 2-3. I also have an undergraduate research team that will start the second week of the semester and we will be exploring British Petroleum’s technical crisis communication message strategies. I am very committed to involving undergraduates in research, so if this interests you, come talk to me.
Every semester that I teach my Workplace Technologies Class, I ask the students to go 24 hours with no use of communication technologies. That means no cellphone, no Internet, no ipod, no Facebook, no computer, nothing that can interfere with face-to-face communication. Some of them have profound experiences, while other just do the assignment. I always do this exercise with my students and in all past semesters I’ve done it during the week. This year I decided to try an extended weekend and while I do feel like I cheated a little bit, I also learned some fresh things from the exercise. I turned off my phone for this past weekend and did not log back on to my computer until late Sunday evening. I went fossil hunting and hiking with my family. My daughter found the wind and sun a bit much, so she only made it a few hours. I realized that I got to have an uninterrupted conversation with my son for a whole day. The obligation that we feel when we carry our mobile phones with us or have ready access to email changes the conversation. At home I find myself justifying the interruptions with the excuse that it will only take a minute to check my email. But that interruption, even brief, has changed the flow of our discussion. Our conversations were deeper and the exercise proved quite enlightening. I did not feel the pain (and I do mean pain) that I normally feel when I know I’m missing conversations and I did not worry that something would happen to my kids and I would be “unavailable,” but I still learned something new from taking a weekend off of technology. The experience did not stress me out like it has in the past, but it has made me think about much deeper issues in my own life and that of my family. Try it sometime or contact me and I’ll let you know when we do it again next fall.