Enthusiasm and learning

Alexandre Enkerli recently posted a presentation dealing with enthusiasm, teaching, and active learning. The post builds on his earlier writing, “Technology Adoption and Active Reading”.  The discussion between Pamthropologist and Michael Wesch also dealt with motivating learning, and I think the idea of “enthusiasm” is pretty important.

Using new technologies can be a way to bring out enthusiasm in the class, which in turn motivates interest and hence learning. Enkerli’s WiZiQ presentation discusses the need to get teachers, students and administrators motivated to use these new technologies. He writes,

To a large extent, universities and colleges have been slow to adopt the online tools and approaches which are taking educational technology by storm. Apart from technical hurdles, there are diverse obstacles to the adoption of “neat new toys” in the context of higher education. By discussing these obstacles, we may be able to overcome them. Simply put, how can we get college and university people excited about the possibilities afforded new online technologies? This WiZiQ session will be a workshop on some ways to generate enthusiasm for educational technology in higher education. A short presentation about online advocacy will be followed by an open discussion about people’s experiences in motivating learners, administrators, and colleagues into trying out new tools and approaches.”

I highly recommend listening and watching, as I’ve been laughing all morning after listening to first part of the discussion where they test the technology to make sure everything is working correctly. I’ll also be looking out for more future presentations using the WiZiQ platform as it seems to work really well.

[My notes from the presentation and discussion]

I really like the idea of “playfulness” Enkerli advocates. I think its true that the university promotes a kind of seriousness that is related to being “professional”, which I find is unnecessary to learning.

He discusses the possibilities of bridging life and learning.

  • Building context for learning.
  • Informal learning.
  • holistic exploration of technology as opposed to causal/deterministic
  • “tools meant to be used” -> “does it do what you want” = not technology fetish, but rather about possibilities to use it. [options are good]
  • rehearsal vs performance -> use rehearsing strategies with technology integration. [best use not always immediately apparent]
  • “Who do we want to enthuse?” – learners (primary audience), colleagues (tech staff, teachers, administration) [cannot act alone]
  • Diverse group of learners – different backgrounds, learning styles, “ways of knowing” model. Different ways of teaching too. [need options, best not to impose]
  • Types of motivation – can be very motivated in the wrong directions. Need to channel/direct motivation rather than develop it.
  • Different levels of comfort with technology. Many students uncomfortable with new tools. “It’s not necessarily the students who want us to use the tools.”
  • Need to develop enthusiasm among teachers. “The more teachers that use the tool, the more useful it becomes” -> “network effect”.
  • Some teachers very much against new technologies -> and some department chairs/heads -> “decision makers”
  • Need to collaborate with technical staff to find right solutions. [hard to do it all yourself. Value of community support]
  • Enthusiasm spreads – powerful effect getting more people involved – snowball effect.  “The entourage matters”.
  • Resist tools based on social identity – “don’t want to be a geek”. “negative reactions to technology”.
  • Adopting technology through consensus in community.
  • Don’t impose tech or ideas, just “plant the seed”   -> “planting land mines”. [who knows when it will be useful]
  • Need to get some momentum and at some point “things just start to happen”.  [ie, students use of a forum]
  • “Unintended uses” -> adoption. Example he gives of how a class adopts a chatroom – first used to discuss pizza, but developed comfort and soon started using it for the math class as well. “assess the comfort level”.
  • Not forcing students to use tools, just make them available. Allow people to adopt at their own speed. “Here’s whats possible” + adapt to different groups.
  • Encourage getting students to speak to one another -> forums, etc.
  • Let students manage their own privacy – give them more credit. “I think they are aware of the issues”. [discussing the use of facebook]
  • Other techs discussed -> refworks, diggo, wordpress, blogger, twitter, identica, slideshare, Wikipedia

One participant in the discussion mentions that Facebook has been banned at her university. [not sure which University]

A middle-school teacher is having trouble with the schools banning technology/website. Ie: Voice thread.  Enkerli points out that those technology decider’s are one of the primary group that needs to be encouraged to use the tools [not just teachers and students, but administrative staff too!].

  • “Using technology as a backup to things going on the class” – Participant – Ron.
  • “Need the tech staff to be our friends”.
  • but technology staff also overworked, often only focusing on tech problems like viruses, and keeping machines working. They aren’t focused on using technology for learning. Need to develop enthusiasm among tech staff too.
  • WiZiQ -> good sound quality, but still issues with people not muting the mic (“push to talk” would be nice).
  • “Very visual – almost like a private lesson.”
  • Lots of speaking over each other.

The WiZiQ platform is a great virtual classroom. The participants “played” around with the whiteboard features, listened to the presentation, and then discussed it online. There were issues getting mic levels setup properly, and there was also some talking over each other/leaving mic on (feedback) issues, but overall it was a very succesful presentation – Next time I’ll be sure to show up on time so I can participate. [but it sure is nice to be able to review the whole thing as if it were live!].


6 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks a lot for the ping and, especially, for the rundown. In a way, you make more sense of this presentation than I did.
    I’ll be giving other WiZiQ presentations and should follow up on some issues. The next session I’ll do will be on keeping a course fresh. Things I want to improve in my WiZiQ presentations: let “backchannel” run on its own, give more time for discussion, use the whiteboard more, and maybe use a webcam.
    Back on that session. Perhaps because of the sound issues (I couldn’t hear myself in the headphones), my voice was probably less enthusiastic than it usually is. A benefit of that is that it avoided the “motivational speech” tone which might have made the session more artificial.
    The “role change” dimension of tech adoption is probably worth more consideration (and has probably been studied extensively). It’s a bit less noticeable now but there was a time when a lot of reluctance to tech use sounded like “I don’t want to be associated with the techies.” One thing which is changing is that geek culture is now respected, to a certain extent. It’s more ok to be geek, now. In the general population. Many academics are too role-conscious for this. Can a geek get tenure?
    The analogy I had in mind was from a Seinfeld episode about ménage à trois. Seinfeld wanted to participate in the act but he didn’t want to become a swinger. He would have to grow a moustache!
    Do tech-savvy teachers have to wear xkcd t-shirts?


  2. I like the idea of a webcam so we can see peoples faces when they are laughing. It can be a great way to establish connections with people as long as its not dominating the screen real estate so much that it distracts from the whiteboard and other collaborative areas. [ie not to put too much focus on the presenter, and to share the focus with participants]. Can participants use webcams too?


  3. AFAIK, any participant can use a webcam and they can be put in focus at will. Not sure WiZiQ does the “webcam insert with slides in most of the screen” setup common with other collaboration systems.
    My problem is that I don’t have a webcam right now (I miss Macs!). But I do see some advantages of using one (despite the controversy, Wesch can be convincing).


  4. You are going to love this. Today, we had a Distance Learning Faculty meeting. Dean of the Virtual College cued up Wesch’s The Machine is Us/ing Us. I wasn’t there but I had calls. Oh, did I have calls.

    I am up to my ears in work. Have some syllabi to pull together by Monday but I demand equal time after the viewing. I am issuing an open invitation. Any time you like. Come YouTube me and my students in my classroom. You want enthusiasm? You got it…with or without the technology. It ain’t the size of the WiZiCam, its what you do with it, baby.


  5. Thanks for the invitation! I really appreciate the perspective you share. I hope I don’t come across as anti-lecture, and I’m sure the class would make a great video/podcast! Since I can’t afford the plane ticket, any chance I can convince you to make a video and post it for us? 🙂


  6. Pam is great, I am so glad she is blogging! 😀


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