Sunday, November 6, 2016

Syllabi: mobile tech and the digital divide

I cannot believe how quickly this semester is flying by (and, likewise, how long it has been since I posted here!) My forays into tablet pedagogy have brought new opportunities (read: additional work), including serving as co-Chair of Fresno State's DISCOVERe Taskforce subcommittee on assessment, as well as now being the co-Coordinator of one of campus' newest Faculty Learning Communities: Advanced DISCOVERe. In fact, in both of these "co-" situations, my colleague Mary Paul and I are working together to help identify and then disseminate the value that educational technology can provide both students and instructors. Watch us discuss this briefly here.

As I teach more tablet-based classes, I have identified some specific items that I suggest including on any syllabus for a class that intends to have all students use any type of mobile technology (i.e. smartphones, tablets, laptops), whether it is a program like DISCOVERe or whether it is a BYOD (bring your own device) situation. I have written about such syllabi before, but here are some new thoughts:

If you intend on having students use technology to complete any assignment, be firm and state on your syllabus that the technology must be used, if that is your philosophy and truly your intention. If you can't defend the use of the technology over a traditional (e.g. paper) process, then the use of technology might not be warranted.

Even in the DISCOVERe program, where each student is required to bring a tablet to each class meeting, it is not uncommon to find smartphones and/or laptops being substituted. If, as the instructor, one feels particularly strongly about allowing one or two of these technologies, but not the other(s), then it is good to clearly articulate in the syllabus what will happen should a student not be using their tablet during class.

I've described before (e.g. here) how I moved test-taking into the digital realm, requiring students to annotate a PDF of the exam. What I realized at the end of last semester was that students were taking two liberties that I hadn't explicitly dealt with in my syllabus, and so (at the time), I felt like I had no recourse to intervene. Those were:

Use of multiple devices
I occasionally saw students using a laptop and tablet, and/or smartphone, during an exam. This gave me the uneasy feeling that some backchannel communication might have been going on during the exam. If you want to limit student digital access to each other during an exam, limiting the number of devices allowed to be used might at least make it less efficient to carry on digital conversations with others.

Use of tablet keyboards
Some students had purchased external keyboards for their tablets - something not required in the DISCOVERe program. This made me immediately concerned about whether this was putting some students (who might not be able or willing to afford that extra expense) at a disadvantage. I currently ban the use of audio during the course, because I feel that I would have to require students to use earphones so as not to distract other students. I don't think that requiring every student to purchase headphones is reasonable (even if most already have them - some will not), and so I am currently pondering whether to ban external keyboards as well.

I hope that providing these thoughts will help you strategize what you place in your syllabus for the 21st century classroom!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have an insightful comment, best practice, or concern to share? Please do!