Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I’ve written that I teach undergraduates. My last time teaching graduate classes was in 2004 and 2005, when I took over the now-discontinued Urban Education program. It consisted of three undergraduate courses for the Urban Ed minor, and two graduate courses for the certificate in Urban Ed. Aside from those two courses, before he retired, I occasionally substituted for a faculty member in his classes for my department.

So I’m thrilled to have gotten the blended grad class summer assignment. It’s not that I don’t enjoy teaching undergrads. I do, very much. But as the distance between my age and being a young person increases, the challenge is to be sure that distance isn’t reflected in my relationship with students. It isn’t always easy. Every semester more students bring devices – laptops, tablets, smartphones (cell phone saturation has been 100% for a while) – into the classroom, and there seems to be no etiquette regarding texting and social networking. Not to suggest that this behavior is absent among elders, I notice it in faculty meetings as well. But we know we should be paying attention and that it violates a social norm. For undergraduate students, it is the social norm.

The solution is not banning devices, policing the room, or making useless exhortations (not that all three approaches aren’t tempting). The question is how to bring them into class in a productive and meaningful way.

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