Tag Archives: teaching technology

Smartphones/Twitter in the classroom, an update

Before this semester, I blogged about changing the syllabus of our “Media Copywriting” course (BRC328) to not only discard the old “put your smartphones away in class” trope but to even encourage and embrace the use of technology — specifically Twitter — during class time.

I was pleasantly surprised with how many readers asked for updates, and I’d say: So far, so good. Perhaps better, especially when it has curried creativity.

First I used Twitter for instant feedback, asking the class to give their quick review as I showed things like the classic Charmin campaign referenced in the name of our textbook, Luke Sullivan’s “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads.” I always ask for feedback using the #brc328 class hashtag.

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 9.22.05 PMSince advertising is about the instantaneous, in-the-moment reaction to content — humans generally think about ads in the moment, not in long-tail analytical ways, I found this very interesting. And found it funny how many times students words like “creepy,” “awkward” and “uncomfortable” to describe old Mr. Whipple spots.

But this week, we had in-class creativity exercises, with Twitter the expressive medium. I asked them to read a story — for example, on The Acting Company appearing on campus this week to stage “Hamlet” and the Tom Stoppard play it inspired, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” Some of the responses were bardic nuggets in themselves:
Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 8.52.34 PMA Shakespeare reference is a plus. Or a good pop culture analogy …

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 8.52.54 PMBut this may be my favorite …

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 8.53.14 PM

It definitely encourages further use of Twitter during class. It succeeds in breaking up lecture time and finds new ways to include students in both the conversation and creative process. Stay tuned!

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Why I’m deleting ‘no cellphones’ from my syllabus

When I started teaching Media Copywriting in fall 2005, the syllabus included a simple “cellphones should not be seen nor heard” line in it, with accompanying mini-lecture in class, that has remained. Until now.

tweetsStarting this semester, I’m fine if students use smartphones in class. I even hope they sometimes use them during class.

It’s a trend popping up other places, acknowledging smartphones as participatory instruments. I’ve never been a big fan of the classroom as one-way lecture megaphone. Yet the establishment position among academia resisted the inclusion of laptops and personal devices in classes. But we’ve long since reached a point where, to borrow a great line from education expert Mark Greenfield: “The question is no longer whether laptops belong in lecture halls, but whether lecture halls belong in universities.”

Consider this: My intern Alyssa (of Alyssa Explains It All fame) takes notes on her iPhone. At an astonishing rate, no less. It takes my stubby, uncoordinated fingers minutes to write a text, yet today’s students like Alyssa could compose a short essay in that time. Who are we to discriminate on what media they use for note-taking?

But smartphones can be worked into feedback and learning as well. I’ve previously given homework assignments asking students to tweet examples, responses and opinions — often with video links — on the #brc328 tag to set the tone for the next class. Why not ask them to tweet in class in response to questions or to use it as another regular feedback and discussion channel?

I’m not saying the first semester doing this won’t be a bit sloppy, and that it won’t require fine-tuning. Will students abuse the privilege and not pay attention while playing games or whatever on their smartphones? Maybe. Their loss. If they aren’t paying attention in class or taking good notes, it becomes apparent after a while and the consequences come naturally in their ability to do assignments and pass the test. I’m giving them responsibility and seeing how they use it. From my experience, I expect students to respond accordingly and receive the grade they deserve.

In any event, I’ll let you all know how it goes.

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