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Outline for GVSU Tech Symposium


I promised I would send you some thoughts about the Tech Symposium keynote before we meet on Monday, and that's what this email is for. The title of the talk is "How can technology extend the humanity of learners? A dialogue" and I think what I'd like to see is the two of us asking each other questions that address the larger question in the title. The more I worked on an outline for the talk the less it seemed like an outline was really the right tool for the job. So below I have a list of questions that are given, all of which get at the larger question in the title, in the order in which they could be asked. I can see us taking turns asking each other these questions and giving answers and back-and-forth on these.

  • Questions about our students
    • Begin with anecdotes about students: Something we've seen a student do recently that drives us crazy, something that a student's done that makes us step back and say "wow".
    • Question: What motivates our students? Why do they do the things they do?
    • Dialogue possibilities
      • Students are motivated by a desire to find success -- a place in the world.
      • Students are sometimes motivated because someone else has planned their lives for them -- sometimes this causes them to do strange things because they themselves are not fully invested.
      • Students are motivated by grades -- which is often a misplaced desire to find happiness.
      • So it looks like students are motivated by hopes, failures, relationships, the desire to be happy and experience life. This makes them actual real people.
    • Question: Well, if they are actual real people then this means that we should be able to empathize and put ourselves in their shoes because we are actual real people too. What would it be like for us to switch places with students today at GVSU?
      • Dialogue possibilities:
        • Anecdotes -- stories from our own college classes where we felt humanized, where we felt dehumanized.
        • Taking a critical look at the classes we teach -- what would we be like, if we were taking that class? Would we feel humanized?
  • Questions about our teaching
    • Question: What were some key moments in our careers where this realization that students are people, and we have a responsibility to teach humanely, became apparent to us? And what did we do about it?
      • Dialogue: Share some of those stories and the key takeaways. What did we realize? How did we realize it? What did we do about it?
      • One of the things I plan on sharing is when I started having kids, realizing the innate human capacity for learning and growth. I learned that human beings have incredible abilities to find patterns, to be curious, and a longing to know things. This changed my teaching.
    • Question: What kind of teaching seems to respect the human ability to learn?
      • Dialogue possibilities: I think we are on the same page here about active learning and so on, and this is a time to sketch this out from our own teaching and what we've seen in others'.
    • Takeaway: Student-centered teaching that focuses less on dissemination of information and more on active personal construction of knowledge "fits" the humanness of students.
  • Questions about technology
    • Take a moment to draw out particular examples of student-centered instruction that involve technology. Share some things we've done that were pretty effective. This could be a relatively lengthy segment of the talk. (Not too long though)
    • Question: What is it about the use of technology in Those situations that made it effective?
      • Common themes: Students use technological tools to extend their abilities (example: using Geogebra to build an interactive model, using Python code to generate lots of data and see a pattern)
    • Question: Does this mean that all technology is good?
      • Nope. Because technology can be ineffective or actively harmful if it's not employed with the needs and abilities of learners in mind.
    • Question: So what are some criteria for using technology -- how to choose it, how to integrate it into classes, how to support the use, etc. -- that would help ensure its effectiveness?
      • Discussion here -- we can just share our viewpoints.
  • Conclusion -- I have nothing for the conclusion right now.

Anyway I hope you can see where I am going with this -- we ask each other questions that leads through a discussion of what it means to be human and a learner, what our pedagogy looks like once it clicks with us that students are human and therefore have the capacity to learn, and what distinguishes uses of technology that work for students versus those that do not work for students.

I'm not married to all this structure here but it's a first draft. Let me know what you think and I look forward to hashing more of this out on Monday.


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