I just attended a two-day technology conference aimed at higher education faculty and staff. One of the big features of the conference was a track on personal learning environments and “technology engagement” of students. In other words, how can faculty and staff use the technology tools out there today to engage their students in ways the students already understand and use.
One of the sessions I attended advocated creating an entire pod of space including blogs, Twitter, facebook, and wikis focused on one class. One of the presenters bragged about how she had created a “mother blog” and all of the students each had their own blog, and every student was responsible for two weekly posts to their blog, and had to read and comment on all of the blogs the other students in the class were working on. They were also supposed to Tweet whenever they posted an entry on their blog, and update the wiki with their new entry as well. I did the basic college math and figured that to do this effectively, each student needed to be spending some 10 hours twice a week simply reading and commenting on their classmates’ blogs, if there were 30 students in the class and each blog took 20 minutes to read. Never mind the hour or more it might take to post a respectable blog post, and then updating the wiki to reflect the new information. Once they’ve done that, there’s still the reading assignments, paper assignments, tests and test studying, that has to go on. This new “personal learning environment” was tripling the work load for these students, right out of the gate. Multiply this by the number of classes they might be taking (let’s say 5), and suddenly, there’s more homework time than there are waking hours in a week.
I was not the only one to attend this session and make the same conclusion afterwards. Who has time for all that?
As it is, I don’t have time for half of what I want to do. I read about 10 blogs religiously, another 15 or so when the topic sounds interesting, plus local and national news. I post on facebook, I write posts for GeekNewsCentral plus my own blogs, as well as answering emails and taking care of other online business. And somewhere in there I have to eat, work, sleep, shower, and mow the lawn.
While I think “Web 2.0″ and all of the social networking is a great resource and source of entertainment and information, I have my doubts as to whether integrating this so deeply in the classroom experience of college students brings any real value to the mix. Seems like an awful lot of busywork, which I’m not sure any college student needs more of. I don’t see these methodologies replacing current classroom teaching and assignments, either, for many reasons.
I will be interested to see if this truly takes off on my campus.