Re: Re[6]: Reassessing our practices

Wed, 14 Feb 1996 21:02:15 -0500

On Wed, 14 Feb 1996, Tricia Christensen wrote:

> I think you've hit it where you suggest that the essay be replaced
> by work in electronic media where one "has the technology at one's
> disposal" . . .
> I've encountered difficulties with some students participating
> on mailing lists and the like when they don't have computers. Granted
> there are computer labs all over campus and students should take
> advantage of this wonderful free service offered to them. but
> I have noticed that students who have 24 hour a day access to
> computers tend to be the strongest participants in newsgroups

Of course it's absolutely necessary to consider what resources are
available to you and to your students. It sounds like your campus
may be like ours here at UNCG -- computer labs all over campus
with services offered "free" (at least the cost is covered in fees
whether they use the service or not).

When requiring traditional listserv or VAX notes, I've encountered
my share of student complaints about access. While my students don't
have more work in terms of assignment load than do their counterparts
in traditional classes, they *do* find it necessary to do those
assignments in a specific place. While their colleagues in other
classes can sit in their dorm rooms, go outside by the fountain, or
sit at a table in the cafeteria to do homework, my students have to
go to a computer lab if they don't have PC/modem at home.

I deal with this in a couple of ways. First of all (and this may sound
harsh), I tell them that this will be a requirement of the class from the
first day and if they find this a burden or hardship then they need to
drop my class and sign up in a traditional comp class, of which there are
several dozen alternatives. Second, I point out to them that even in
traditional classes they will encounter from time to time assignments that
require them to be in specific places at specific times (eg. the
"research" project that requires them to spend time in the library).

More recently, however, I've moved away from using the listserv or
VAX to using Norton's Connect in a networked classroom. This means
that my classes always meet at a computer terminal during regularly
scheduled class times. This software enables students to have
textual conversations in real time in the same way that they'd have
oral discussions during class.

In both cases, though, I've found class participation to be much higher
than in traditional classes.

As long as the technology is available to students on campus, there are
ways to at least try something like this and see how it works. I've never
been terribly timid about taking risks myself. I always figure that if
something's not working, I can regroup and head down another road.

But even though I'm venturesome about trying those new roads, I agree
with you that we need to tread carefully. We need to consider what
constitutes an unfair burden on our students and we need to be
looking critically as we proceed to see if a genuine learning
experience seems to be in the making. I'd never advocate doing
something differently simply because it's different. "New and
different" is not rewarding unless it is also "better."

(re: your classic computer -- I've noticed that any ol' equipment works
just great as long as it can get you connected to someone else!)