Saturday, January 29, 2011

Learning Styles Discussed 1st Class Period

Tried something new this year on first night of class - beginning with a discussion of learning styles and educational philosophy. We started by looking at portions of Can You Picture This in which art professor Rachel Williams conveys her ideas about making research on women in prison accessible to "the woman on the street" via a comics format. Students had wildly different responses - ranging from "I love this medium" to "too difficult to comprehend". Great discussion of visual learning styles; for what audiences this comics medium might be particularly appropriate; whether feminist scholars have a duty to make their work accessible to non-academic types; and much more.

I also showed the video The Networked Student which focuses on self-directed learning using various Web tools from blogs to RSS feeds to Skype. Several students said that while they could see this approach to learning had merit, personally they preferred the more traditional lecture by professor plus assigned textbook approach. Others related positive experiences they had with this self-directed approach in the past. We discussed that while the traditional lecture/textbook method might cover material more quickly and efficiently, the self-directed approach might result in deeper learning. Many were excited by the possibility that a course built around this approach would probably entail a lot of student choice in what they studied.

Whether just by chance or as a result of beginning this way, students this semester seem really into learning.

Videos: Do Students Really Prefer Them?

I was surprised at the reaction of many of my students to the video The Networked Student. Many said they found all the animation distracting, including some who identified themselves as "visual learners." Students said they had to watch the video two or three times to really take in the content and would have found a text format preferable. True, the video was created in the Common Craft** format where a hand is frequently removing a piece of paper and placing another one on the display board. Perhaps a video created in a different format would not have provoked this "it's so distracting" reaction.

**Common Craft is famous for its Blogs in Plain English, RSS in Plain English, Podcasting in Plain English, and many similar type videos.