Student Engagement: Digital Versus Analog?

Earlier tonight on Twitter…

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I replied:

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

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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.

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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.

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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:

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

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

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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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