image: an untrained eye
Students are decidedly
by their Profs’ tech skills.
do we have to
naked? an ePaper by sidneyeve matrix
When students were polled in a
national survey last fall,
almost half said their
profs do not understand
how to use technology. 1
image: kharied (needs a cupcake)
Call them the
image: SimonWhitaker Gen Y
these computer‐savvy (or at the very least, connected and
techno‐curious) kids in higher educational classrooms today
use, and expect their profs to use digital technology to
communicate and teach.
And for the most part, they are underwhelmed with both the
low levels of edtech uptake and digital literacy of their profs.
The feeling goes
both ways of course
with professors claiming that, beyond Facebook and texting,
students are not digital wizards with mad skillz, far from it in
fact, despite many claims to the contrary.
Professors also disagreed with student perceptions about
faculty technical fluency.
In the same survey, two‐thirds of profs self‐reported that they
are satisfied with their level of personal digital tech knowledge.
image: Andrew Feinberg
These discrepancies point to what Henry Jenkins and Danah
Boyd call the digital technology participation gap 2
that emerges between generations. It’s another approach to
understanding the digital divides that separate cohorts,
classes, and demographics.
Basically, students and teachers have potentially different skill
sets, but more importantly, it seems apparent that
we prefer different
to communicate, learn, create, connect, and participate in
.6. What kinds of
do students want?
We know what they do NOT
image: monica, nic
want: more bad powerpoint.
No surprise. Often repeated,
death‐by‐powerpoint is by now
part of our cultural idiom.
Still, presentations read aloud
word‐for‐word directly from
text‐heavy, clip‐art accented
slide decks are business‐as‐
usual in classrooms and at
As reported in The Chronicle of
Higher Education, a study
published in the April issue of
British Educational Research
Journal found 59% of students
interferes with their
ability to focus, 3
retain, and learn.
In response, Southern Methodist University Dean José A. Bowen
suggested prohibiting powerpoint from the lecture
hall, shifting to more interactive discussions during face‐to‐face
meetings, and use of podcasts for lecture delivery.
Bowen called it
teaching naked. 4
It's unknown how many
professors followed Bowen's
advice, swapping powerpoint
lectures for on‐demand podcasts,
but many classes are
and not just because it means
they don’t have to go to class.
image: luc legay
For visual learners, ESL students, special‐needs, busy
schedules, or exam cramming, a course that comes
packaged with audio‐video digital assets can be a bonus.
This is especially so if the podcasts are truly value‐added
features, not replacing the prof, P2P discussions, lecture or
image: Thomas Hawk
Early adopters at York University, Carleton and Mount Allison
reported that student engagement was up
considerably when they put their lectures online in audio or
video format. 5
Instead of acting as a deterrent to attending class, podcasts
have lead to more student involvement. 6
“My average student watches 120 percent of the lectures,” says
one professor at Carleton. “Students do a combination of
coming to lectures, watching them on TV and watching them on
This is learning
students also like social
Students know how to use Facebook and are generally
interested in other social media tools. Those pre‐existing digital
skills can be leveraged for formal learning outcomes.
Integrating social media based assignments into coursework
pushes the digital literacy envelope. In the process students are
better prepared for their job search and perhaps even future
Using social media tools also helps to connect the classroom to
the world off‐campus—making courses appear more
Nothing illuminates the generational
participation gap between
many faculty and their students
faster than social media
communication technologies. These
tools are part of the real‐time web.
The velocity of an instant‐
messaging, status‐updating, twitter‐
trending, and now location‐aware
and mobile digital culture is shifting
communications and connectivity
habits on campus.
The connected cohort is
accustomed to having access to
including ideally, always-on image: Pink Sherbert Photography
profs. Increasingly students
expect their professors to respond
to their questions immediately. 8
Faculty contemplating adoption of
social media technologies should set
clear expectations about online
availability. Design a set of social
media guidelines. Distribute, share,
and rotate responsibility for
socmedia moderation among
students to encourage ownership,
engagement, & authenticity.
Make your course more on‐demand, social, and mobile with these
1. Distribute video podcasts.
Create video vodcasts or audio‐only podcasts of lectures, extra
material, or of FAQ (answer the predictable questions once, not
repeatedly) and post on YouTube, iTunesU, and Vimeo. Get some
video content into your course by assigning students to produce a
short audio/video interview for course credit—then share them
2. Create a Facebook page for the
Facebook is mobile‐ready and many students access it frequently
everyday on their smartphones. Invite students to join/fan the course
on Facebook and use that space to share relevant newsworthy links
and videos from YouTube. Assign course credit for this content
curation (and have a discussion about the future of social news‐
3. Post presentations on
Post lecture slides, student presentations, or design standalone slide
decks to teach material not covered during face‐to‐face meetings.
Create a course account and favorite other designers’ slideshows, ask
students to review and assess. This kind of assignment exposes
students to a variety of professional and amateur information
designers—and creates opportunities to discuss best practices in
knowledge design. Put FAQ into a deck.
about the author
Sidneyeve Matrix, PhD.
Queen's National Scholar, Film & Media, Queen's
University, Canada. Professor of digital culture, mass
communication & marketing, pop culture, television,
& film courses. Website: sidneyevematrix.net
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