Monday, 11 March 2013

C5: Computer says no: Knowing when enough is enough!

Barry Ryan
Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland

Engaging first year students in large lectures halls can be particularly difficult. Students are exposed to a myriad of distractions, principally technology-based and available through their laptop and smartphones. In this case study, to circumvent these distractions and in an attempt in enhance student engagement, technology was integrated into the learning environment. Additionally, technology forms were chosen that would improve communication, enhance peer based learning, foster a community of self-learning and provide the students with a real and virtual spaces to engage with each other and the content both synchronously and asynchronously.

Twitter provided a method of communication between students and the lecturer in the form of an in class back-channel and also a means of rapidly disseminating information to the class. Various technologies were used, both inside and outside the classroom, in order to prepare the student for the in-class learning activities and also to provide a structured independent and peer-driven learning environment.

In this case study it was observed that the in-class technologies were readily and enthusiastically engaged with by the students, however, the outside class technologies were less so. Only the technology that had an assessment weighting associated received continuous student interaction. Post module evaluation noted that although students welcomed the use of technology in their learning there was a sense of being overwhelmed with technology and that the students needed space to engage with their different technology based communities; social, personal and educational. In light of this, the paper concludes with suggestions for other practitioners that which to integrate similar technologies into their learning environments.

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