We begin Achieving Excellence in Teaching: A Self-help Guide (New Forums, 2014) by citing Gerry Nosich’s Learning To Think Things Through (2001). After citing much research on how little people remember and how fast they forget material, so he posits that instructors should focus not on dispersing quantity of information but rather the course or session ought to build around “fundamental and powerful concepts.” Nosich claims that a fundamental and powerful concept is “one that can be used to explain of think out a huge body of questions, problems, information, and situations. All fields have f&p concepts” (105-106).
Are Millennials Cyberslacker Students?
Recently, additional research has appeared that supports this pedagogical notion that less learning is more. In “A Generation of Cyberslackers”, Ronald Alsop gets into the territory explored by Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows (2010). Alsop refers to the millennial generation born in the 1980s and 1990s as the Attention Deficit Disorder Generation because “they are more tightly tethered to their computers and phones, obsessively checking texts, email, and social media sites.”
“Researchers,” Alsop continues, “have discovered that “millennials are more likely than Gen Xers or baby boomers to report that their productivity suffers at work because of cellphone distractions and `cyberslacking’ on the Internet. Interestingly, Alsop reports, according to a 2013 survey of US and UK adults, millennials want to pay better attention, and “About 70% of them said they would be interested in learning how to strengthen their focus.”
Resources for Faculty Using Social Technology in The Classroom
What does this insight suggest about teaching? Obviously, reaching the millennial generation and penetrating this small attention span looms as a difficult task. Just as obviously, even without this research, instructors should be following Nosich’s theory of teaching the fundamental and powerful concepts. One other solution comes to mind.
The May 2015 issue of the Journal of Faculty Development (29.2), which was guest-edited by Rusty, is a special issue focused on “Social Media in Pedagogy and Practice: Networked Teaching and Learning.” Acknowledging the rise of social media sites and higher education’s growing interest in them, Rusty gets quickly to crux of the matter: “their instructional uses continue to both inspire and challenge faculty and students.”
This special issue of JFD spotlights “the most successful and promising strategies for integrating social media into the classroom while also considering the challenges these technologies present for teaching and learning.” Social media sites continue to provide spaces of opportunity for faculty willing to navigate them. The challenge is ensuring that they are safe, educational, and productive.
Various articles detail using Facebook, establishing guideposts for practitioners, integrating social media into writing classrooms, applying activities and assignments that support collaboration and community, employing digital portfolios, using social media to create surveys. In short, Rusty has put together a collection of key articles that might be thought of as the academics’ version of the Marines’ motto of “Improvise. Adapt, Overcome.”
Carr, Alsop, and this special issue of JFD concur that the influence of social media is not going to lessen, which in turn suggests that the next generation of students is going to have less of a traditional classroom focus. Instructors wishing to reach this group will need professional development that explores this invasive technology.
About the Author
Ph.D Hal Blythe writes literary criticism to mystery stories. In addition to the eleven books he’s published with New Forums, Hal has collaborated on four books on a variety of subjects, over 1000 pieces of fiction/nonfiction, and a host of television scripts and interactive mysteries performed by their repertory company. He is currently co-director of the Teaching and Learning Center for Eastern Kentucky University. Meet Hal Blythe.