A Swing and a Miss

The other week, I blogged about my students backchanneling during my class via IM. Martha suggested we try to formalize that arrangement on the course website. She and Jerry (or was it Jerry and she?) installed a chat box on the course homepage which you can see on the right hand side.

I planned an exercise in class that I hoped would exploit the chat box. I have been modeling the process an economist might use to do a research project, in the form of the project I am currently doing in parallel with the projects my students are doing this semester.

Today I planned to demonstrate how an economist uses economic theory to derive insights about a research question. To that end, I presented a fairly simple, but theoretical analysis of the effects of outsourcing on labor markets in the U.S. and China. I told students that I would give them my notes, so in lieu of writing down what I was presenting, I wanted them to think of questions the answers to which would give a richer understanding of the issues being discussed. As examples, I suggested they could ask how many U.S. jobs have been outsourced or how low Chinese wages are. I concluded by asking that each student try to post at least one question.

This turned out to be a complete bust. After class, I looked at the chat box. The students had been chatting all right, but not a single student had posted a question of the type I was looking for. Did they not understand what I was asking them to do? Did the public nature of the forum, where they could see what the others were posting, create negative spillovers in that since no one was posting questions, individuals felt comfortable not posting themselves? Something to ponder.

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5 Responses to A Swing and a Miss

  1. Pingback: The Fish Wrapper · Google Jockeys

  2. Charlotte says:

    Yikes. I smell a meme. Katherine Hayles was one of the speakers at the PBK Council meeting I just attended in Atlanta. She was talking about the “traditional” academic style of reading and learning characterized as Deep Attention and the new, rewired style she dubbed Hyper Attention. She suggested ways to move Hyper Attentive students to ideas and study that require Deep Attention. For example, critically examine FaceBook pages, then move students to reading The Education of Henry James. This garnered sage head nods. But the audience freaked when she showed a photo of the Zemeckis Media Lab at USC’s School of Cinema-Television from Justin A. Hall and Scott S. Fisher’s report on their Experiments in Backchannel: Collaborative Presentations Using Social Software, Google Jockeys, and Immersive Environments . More power to you, Steve, for trying to harness the backchannel. Don’t give up. There’s powerful stuff happening there. And if you—or anyone—is looking for a Google jockey for your own experiments, I’d love to give it a whack.

  3. Charlotte says:

    Here are the links:

    For Hayles:

    For Experiments . . .

  4. Pingback: Freshman Seminar Reflections at The Fish Wrapper

  5. Pingback: Pedablogy: Musings on the Art & Craft of Teaching » Blog Archive » Who Dropped the Ball? I Guess It Was Me

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