Student Engagement: Digital Versus Analog?

Earlier tonight on Twitter…

Why do students need to be on computers when collaborating *in the same room?* Is this what we call "engagement" today.
@presentationzen
Garr Reynolds

I replied:

@ So they can do this: http://t.co/BzGawNj. In-class collaborative debate mapping via Prezi Meeting.
@derekbruff
Derek Bruff
@ Students don't *need* to be on computers when collaborating, but computers can allow new forms of collaboration.
@derekbruff
Derek Bruff

I didn’t really think I would get a reply from Garr (Presentation Zen) Reynolds, but…

Much better to go analog: See @ 's work or @ or David Sibbet's "Visual Meetings" http://t.co/HTRMnPw @
@presentationzen
Garr Reynolds
Time would be better spent learning a foreign language in school than learning to use trendy, ephemeral digital tools @
@presentationzen
Garr Reynolds

Wow! He replied!

The phrase “much better” stood out to me in that first reply. When it comes to engaging students, I don’t see a clear winner in the digital vs. analog fight. I’ll use either to suit my learning objectives.

@ I went analog with that same class: http://t.co/p6rw2P7. I wouldn't say it's much better, just different.
@derekbruff
Derek Bruff
@ I'm familiar with @'s work, & blogged about "Visual Meetings": http://t.co/ULUyBZ4. Both under-used in higher ed.
@derekbruff
Derek Bruff

I’ve seen other tweets from Garr Reynolds questioning the utility of Prezi, so I responded to his mention of “trendy, ephemeral digital tools,” too.

@ You really don't like Prezi, do you? I doubt I could change your mind.
@derekbruff
Derek Bruff

Debates over the value of Prezi aside, there’s a deeper issue here: the alignment of teaching practices with learning objectives. I tried to gesture to that in my next tweet:

@ But teaching my students a foreign language wouldn't have helped me meet my course goals. Prezi did. And it took 10 minutes
@derekbruff
Derek Bruff

Reynolds (as of this writing) hasn’t responded to that point. He did, however, retweet my comments about graphic / visual facilitation:

Amen! rt @ I'm familiar with @'s work, blogged about "Visual Meetings": bit.ly/nNb5ak. Both under-used in higher ed
@presentationzen
Garr Reynolds

Meanwhile, Frank Noschese had weighed in, and Reynolds retweeted him, too:

*This* is what I love! rt @ Here's how I engage my students with collaboration using $2 interactive whiteboards: bit.ly/2dollarWB
@presentationzen
Garr Reynolds

Frank’s approach to using whiteboards is very much in line with the graphic / visual facilitation approaches Reynolds and I tweeted about, so it’s not surprising that Reynolds and I both appreciate Frank’s take on whiteboards. And I know Frank wasn’t comparing his whiteboard method with my Prezi method, but I’ll point out that my Prezi method didn’t require any money, beyond what my students and my institution had already paid for laptops and Wifi access points. Since Prezi is free (for basic accounts), I was basically just taking advantage of the tools we had in the room.

I think the most important question raised in this Twitter conversation is the digital vs. analog one. Reynolds seems skeptical of the use of digital tools to engage students. I disagree with him on that, but I don’t think it’s an either-or situation anyway. As I did in my cryptography course, I try to use the instructional methods that will best help me and my students accomplish the learning objectives for a given class session. In the class session on security and privacy, I wanted students to understand the complexity of the arguments around that topic, and having them create a single debate map via Prezi seemed to be a good way to do that. On the final class session, I wanted students to identify for each other the big takeaways from the course, and having them crowdsource those themes via PostIt notes and markers made sense.

What’s your take on the digital vs. analog issue? Or others raised in these tweets?

Image: “Digital Versus Analog?” by me

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