New research out on the use of student response systems in the classroom, and really no surprises to be found in it. Students respond favorably to SRS use in the classroom when it’s used consistently with a clear purpose by an instructor who is excited about using it, and committed to the method.
It does remind me though of how often we fail at the commitment piece. We go into a class believing in a method, mostly, but worried about failure. And our first instinct can be for us to distance ourselves from the method or technique or technology, to somehow immunize ourselves against potential future disaster: we say, “Hey, so we’re trying something new in this class, maybe it will work, maybe it won’t, frankly it will probably blow up around midterms (ha ha) but just soldier through it…”
And the students rightly go um, who’s this “we”? You’re the teacher, you have the power, you’ve got them in the desks, you’ve designed the semester that they are pouring their money and time into; have you thought this through or not? There’s some sorts of weakness and doubt you can show to students. In my experience, this sort of weakness is not one of them. You’re not doing your students any favors by fostering worries that all their effort may be for naught. And ultimately you’re not insulating yourself from failure either.
If you want to talk about failure, explain to your students the conditions under which the method seems to work (type of effort and participation required, potential fail points and solutions, etc.) Places where your students can have an impact on the design or success of the project. These are places where you can empower your students, which is quite different from punting on your own responsibility as a course creator and facilitator.
It’s a simple point, but so many educational technology disasters I’ve been involved with have come down to the committment aspect. If you can’t commit to it, don’t do it. But if you’re going to do it, commit.
Photo Credit: flickr/hectorir