October 27, 2004

Time

I think it is ironic that I do my post on Take Back Your Time Day late - both years!

Last year, it was on a discussion board. This year, it is in a blog. I guess we do make progress of a sort ....

But, back to the point.

Take Back Your Time Day is an initiative by the Center for Religion, Ethics, and Social Policy at Cornell University. That's the first hook between TBYTD and this blog - it harkens back to the days when institutions of higher learning were also places where social change often brewed and were communicated to a wider audience. Whether a website or a blog, the ability to publish your thoughts can spark learning and action in others. Isn't that what education is all about??

The other hook is my enduring interest in using technology to IMPROVE learning, coupled with my concern that, in the effort to improve learning, we are overloading ourselves and our students.

One of the seven principles proposed by Arthur W. Chickering and Stephen C. Ehrmann (Implementing the Seven Principles) is that good practice emphasizes time on learning tasks. However, with our ability to expand learning activities well beyond the time and location of the classroom, are we in danger of asking students to spend too much time "on task" and not allowing them time to simply live? And are we in danger of doing the same to ourselves??

Frequently, when faculty first begin to adopt technology, there is the hope that tool X will help them get through with task Y faster or easier or more efficiently. But I often see that tool X sucks them into doing more - often just because they can.

For instance, a discussion board is a great tool to get everyone involved in a discussion. But, if you think about it, this potentially also greatly increases the amount of time you and the students spend on the course. Instead of a few people discussing an item in the classroom, now, the whole class will be expected to post something. You, the instructor, at a minimum, will end up reading perhaps 30 or 40 posts instead of listening to a 3 or 4 person discussion that probably would have taken 10 minutes, if that.

Without a doubt, this is a fairer scenario and one that allows you to know a far broader range of student opinions. But, if you keep adding to the amount of time required for your classes rather than replacing time for one activity with the same amount of time for a replacement, you are in danger of becoming increasingly time-starved. And you'll probably end up wondering why all these tech tools are supposed to save you time!

So, keep this idea in mind when you plan tech enhancements to a course. Look for places where you can REPLACE an activity that does not serve the educational goals well with one that will. Watch out for the amount of time it will require and resist adding activities just because they can be done outside of class.

Being a full-time student or professor does NOT mean that you live your entire life for learning or teaching. Take back your time.


Posted by bjohnson at October 27, 2004 3:10 PM