Classroom Debates with iPod Touch and Facebook

Challenges:

By definition, formal debates limit participation because only 1 person at a time may speak. The idea was to use hand-held devices (iPod Touch) to provide more participants an opportunity to participate, critique, review, and argue.

The Debate:

As expected, access to hand-held devices boosted participation. Out of approximately 45 participants (2 groups back to back), our Facebook debate page showed that over 137 online communications (complete sentences discussing the topic at hand) were made possible because of this device. Given our time constraints, this clearly would not have been possible in a conventional classroom debate. Out of these contributions, about 1/4 were formulated after class time since students were told that they could continue to contribute for an additional 48 hours after the event.

Debriefing:

An overwhelming number of students described the experience as ‘great’, ‘engaging’, ‘fun’, and ‘so cool’. Many expressed that it was extremely beneficial to them to be able to say what they wanted to say when they wanted to say it. Some also said that they would not have participate as much or at all if they had to speak up in class. Many noted that using technology to debate allowed them to think before they expressed their thoughts.

Some drawbacks were mostly related to the application used (Facebook). While the application allowed us to debate simultaneously, it is not designed for this type of discussion. One of the reasons why is it was chosen was because many students were not allowed to join ‘Twitter’ but already were Facebook subscribers. Another problem that caused some frustration was that our initial access router could not support more than 10 devices so we had to install a more powerful router. This caused some frustration on the part of the students. Some students also expressed that those who were technologically challenged felt that they could not compete; as they attempted to type their thoughts someone faster would trump them.

Conclusion:

Overall, this tool was extremely beneficial to both students and myself. They allowed everyone to participate simultaneously and to continue adding even after class had ended. The device promoted the use of the target language created an intensely engaging environment in which students could express themselves freely. Having access to the discussion transcripts at my own convenience allowed me to conduct a more thourough assessment of student contributions.

Recommendations:

  • hand out devices only once all instructions have been given
  • provide access in the classroom on a regular basis so that all students may acquire the desired skills (typing with thumbs / interface familiarity)
  • use a more ‘discussion’ oriented application that will refresh instantly when students contribute
  • FOR THE SECONDARY CLASSROOM, IT WOULD BE USEFUL TO HAVE A ROUTER THAT CAN EASILY BLOCK ACCESS, FOR EXAMPLE, IF IN-CLASS ATTENTION IS REQUIRED

What’s the Environmental Cost of ICT in Education?

Link to ETEC 511 research paper

One of the unit topics in ‘Foundations of Educational Technology’ was ‘The ecology of educational technology’. While the metaphor was insightful, helping us to see technology as a striving species in the education system and contributing factors which allow it to either assimilate or not, what most concerned me was how this new-aged species was impacting our biological ecology literally. Even though I consider myself to be fairly aware with respect to the environmental crisis, I had never stopped to think of how ICT was impacting and will continue to impact the environment. This may have something to do with the fact that the media seems to keep our attention focused on the oil & gas companies and the automobile industry; in fact, I can’t think of any news broadcast that suggested technology was also a main contributor to this crisis. Meanwhile, education systems are some of the heaviest users and promoters of ICT.

Multi-nationals are beginning to engage in greener practices (as part of their newly found corporate consciousness), but it would appear that this has been completely overlooked in education. Of all the technology plans I analyzed over the course of this program, not one made a mention of environmental responsibility.  Without a doubt, education professionals are in an excellent position to exert pressures on ICT giants to develop greener, renewable and upgradable technologies for the education context, but as it was the case for me, many educators have not stopped to think about the environmental cost of ICT in education.

This  paper then, was to serve as an eye-opener to all involved in education such that the environmental question might one day become a standard for inquiry in overall technology deployment. But in reality, it opened only my eyes for I’m not sure that any one except my instructors will ever read it. Nevertheless, the state of consciousness it created in me will undoubtedly impact my practice and my relationship with colleagues and administrators as integrate it into everyday discussion both in the staffroom and the classroom. As education systems become a part of the capitalist machine, “a framework that gives permission to exploit and dominate nature”, it will become increasingly important to advocate for the preservation of our own ecology (Merchant, 2002).

*This paper was inspired by an article posted in our discussion forum, Behold the server farm.

Works cited

Marchant, Carolyn & Schoch, Russell. (2002). A conversation with Carolyn Merchant. California Monthly, 112 (6).

Mehta, S.N. (2006). Behold the server farm. Retrieved June 18, 2009, from http://money.cnn.com/2006/07/26/magazines/fortune/futureoftech_serverfarm.fortune/index.htm