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Interactivity Unplugged

Whoa! Can you believe the news lately about all the new tech-NO-tools that are going to make our lives so much more INTER-Active. New tickle me Mice, new touch-me screens, it’s all so rad and plugged in and viral and tactile. Oh my! Pass me that hand sanitizer, will ya?

Talk about electricity, I interviewed an Elon University professor today as part of my research on using all this electronic interactive media in the classroom. Of course, I’m becoming kind of a know-it-all on this topic so I figured going into this chat that I’d probably have to enlighten professor Gary Palin on exactly what I’ve been focused on. You see, he hasn’t been drinking the same Kool-Aid®, so he couldn’t possibly know, right?

Well, was I in for a big surprise! I barely got the word ‘interactive’ out on the table and don’t you know this gentlemen launches into a litany of stories. These are all very interactive teaching techniques that are not textbook-driven and that involve no chalk & talk lectures.

This guy’s on fire. He’s got a million deals cookin’ regarding how to engage students into great, interactive learning experiences. But, there was something missing. I held back on that as I didn’t want to interrupt his flow of really good stuff. I held back my hard question for him until later.

Here’s an example of one of his class projects in Entrepreneurship:

“I have two classes, one with seniors who are ready to complete the program and another with first year students. One day, for the young novices, I bring in children’s construction paper, glue and scissors and break the class into groups. Using only these materials, each group is to design and build a prototype men’s wallet that must also have a new innovative feature. Then they have to pitch the wallet to the ‘buyers.’ Of course, the ‘buyers’ are the seniors.”

All the students interact and learn by teaching themselves! Very nice. Very clever. But, I’m still thinking about that missing element. Remember, I’m the INTERACTIVE expert here.

Well, I thanked Professor Palin for his time and especially his great, interactive teaching examples. I did not mention that thing that was bothering me.

You see, he was all about engaging folks by turning over choice and control to them. He was asking them to synthesize in a non-linear, conceptual and empathic manner. All his materials were open source.

He was applying all the Kool-Aid, acid test, tagging and track back rules we are learning in our plugged in world of website and blog and wiki development but there was a difference. He hadn’t used one electronic device at all. Not one. Just some paper and scissors and glue which is kindergarten stuff.

He caused constructive, emotional and conceptual learning at the college level without any electricity!

Any questions, class?

  1. gerikfurlan
    October 22, 2009 at 3:55 am

    How true. An interesting take on “interactive” from someone outside our profession. And, as always, a post very much in your “voice.” Bravo!

  2. mbrown26
    October 22, 2009 at 4:12 am

    Paul, you’re a grown man, just ask him the question…nice interview, thanks for sharing.

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