The Students are Coming, the Students are Coming!

These may be the dog days of summer, but the start of school is just around the corner. I don’t mean to be a vacation killjoy: although the first few weeks of the term are busy and stressful, I actually like the excitement and novelty of it all.

In the coming weeks, we’ll have a handful of posts up about relevant back-to-school teaching and technology topics. You can also peruse our entries from last August for posts on everything from Pearson LearingStudio announcements and instructor bios to tips about Google use, uploading audio files, and your syllabus layout. It’s good reading, I promise!

In the meantime, let’s talk about the students.

First, it doesn’t look like the mindset list has been updated yet for the class of 2017, but last year’s list is still there. I promise an update when the new list goes up. As informative and entertaining as the mindset list is, I can’t help but feeling that it also tells us a fair amount about the authors’ own mindsets.

Moving right along, here’s a great graphic illustrating the twelve must-have skills of modern learners.

If students need these skills, this really means that they need to be provided opportunities to practice these skills. How do the big (and small) activities in your courses help students develop these mindsets? Are there ways you could tweak your course activities in order to include one or two of these elements on the way to meeting the course learning objectives?

For example, to give students the opportunity to develop empathy and global stewardship, you might ask them to think about the supply chain for products they are using or the products in their project proposals. What are the ramifications of those choices? Are changes desirable or feasible? To give students practice in developing effective oral and written communication skills, you might consider blogs, tweets, memos, or project pitches as alternatives to the standard papers and presentations.

This list purports to summarize what online students want. However, the key findings – more collaboration, multimedia feedback on a regular schedule, and clear waypoints and guidelines – need not be limited to online or blended learning students. In fact, I think these would be helpful for all students. Best, the brief article lists some concrete ways that instructors can incorporate the above practices.

With all the discussion of digital natives, it’s easy to assume that students are already experts in the learning technologies you are using in your course. This isn’t always the case. In fact, one the questions we are asked most frequently is how students view instructor comments in the Pearson LearningStudio gradebook. In general, without over-explaining or talking down to your students, it’s safest to assume that they may not be familiar with all the features of whatever digital resources you’re using; this goes for first-generation college students and others. As the instructor, you’ll want to provide a basic introduction, and then make sure that help and how-to documentation is available as students set out to work independently.

In closing, I want to share with you this intriguing TEDx video on the fallacy of designing courses with the average student in mind. The speaker is Todd Rose, faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Rose reviews the experience of the U.S. Air Force in designing fighter planes: after intensive research, the Air Force discovered there was no such thing as an “average” fighter pilot. You see where this is going, right? Rose has some great insights about how damaging the notion of “average” is for learners and how we can best nurture the potential of every individual in the classroom.

If you want to think about Rose’s points further, David Hopkins has a nice slide comparing the average fighter pilot and the average student.


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