Monday, September 10, 2007

New Days, New Ways

I've just finished the first week of a new semester of teaching both F2F and online classes. I've spent a lot of the time "out of the classroom" helping individual students get set structurally for the courses they're taking-- showing them how to make blogs of their own, walking them through the process of creating avatars in Second Life, helping them access podcasts, etc. As I've been doing it, I've been thinking of how different this is from the days when I first started teaching. Then the prep was stuff like "buy three textbooks that are in the bookstore" and "when you write a paper for me, type it double spaced so I have a place to comment".
I've become aware that, not only was the updating of ways to do assignments and dialogue with each other needed, but so are the examples I use in order to connect the course material with everyday life. In one of my Intro to Philosophy classes this week, for example, I was trying to explain the ancient Greek world in which Socrates' thought should be placed. I referred to Homer's Odyssey. Not one of my students had heard of it, much less read it. I explained it contained, among other things, Greek mythology. I asked what Greek myths they knew. Only one student had ever read a Greek myth. So I moved on to movies to try to illustrate my point, asking if anyone had ever seen "Clash of the Titans." No one had. I was feeling pretty frustrated, since what should have been a small point in building a worldview was taking so long for the class to connect with. Then it dawned on me to ask "Has anyone ever seen the Disney movie Hercules?" About half the class had. "Anyone ever play one of the Age of Mythology"videogames?" A few more hands went up.

So that's where I start this semester, needing to rethink not only the process of how students learn but also the examples that will connect with what they already know. Heraclitus is clearly right-- it's all change these days.

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