Diana had a great post last week about Ben Chun’s use of Moodle in his classroom. While there has been a lot of talk about teachers finding innovative ways to use technology, the conversation seems to often focus on motivating teachers rather than students. The prevailing attitude seems to be that students will automatically flock to an online discussion forum to discuss schoolwork.

There are many inspiring successes out there (click for an example),but I think the availability heuristic is a source of some bias. When classrooms don’t successfully use new technology, we don’t hear about it. And if we do, it’s easy to put the blame on the adults with generalizations like this:

From Corporate Power

Information technology causes stress on the campus, simply because no one can always keep up at the cutting edge of technology. Even younger faculty members who have grown up with the Internet feel stressed due to the fact that information technology is not user-friendly.

In my own admittedly limited experience, I would argue the same could be said of students who have grown up with the Internet. It is often students who are reluctant to engage in discussion in online forums. Several of my classes have had online blogs, forums, or wikis, which are all very easily incorporated on the official course website. Despite mandatory online discussions, the infrequency of student participation was a source of frustration among professors. Students would often pose their own questions, but few took the time to respond to others’ questions. The interaction that makes such technology so great was sorely lacking.

Without getting into the controversy of the term, perhaps we, the current college students, are not Digital Native enough? Certainly few, if any of us, were accustomed to posting homework online in elementary or middle school. Maybe there’s this line in our heads that the classroom ends when we step out the door. I pose these questions because this is an issue that has bothered me for some time. What are some ways to get students to participate in online academic discussions? Is this less of a problem for younger students who are more in tune with digital learning?

-Sarah Z.

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