This week we talk with Nathan Palmer about teaching sociology in the internet age. Nathan talks about Sociology Source, the Soc101 Class Pack, and how we should be excited, not scared, about what the internet can do for our teaching.
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Having just taught my first online class, I have to agree with Nathan’s sentiments that technology doesn’t necessarily kill the need for good teachers. In fact, if approached in a thoughtful way it can enhance the need for more informed and interactive teaching in the discipline.
In honesty, I was initially a little depressed to get the above-mentioned online teaching assignment; the course consisted mainly of pre-fabricated lesson modules generated by the previous instructor. Adding to its dystopian feel, was the fact that I was given very little design-privileges to change anything in the course. Nonetheless, using the podcast and online forums within the course structure, I over time found that these additional tools gave me the opportunity to be much more interactive with students than when I had previously taught the same course “live.” I would say that because I was able to add new discussions from current events, focus more on the feedback in student papers, and talk to students as they progressed through the material, the course felt much more “live” to me than before.
The whole experience wasn’t great; in hindsight it felt more like a reading group I had with 30 students than an actual course. Nonetheless, students were very much engaged with the material, as was I, throughout much of the semester. I’ve never gotten such high praises on my student evaluations before. I’m not bragging here, because again, I didn’t design the course. But students seemed to have really enjoyed the whole experience.
Thus, I understand what Nathan says about using technology to humanize teaching–though I would probably use the less exciting language that technology enables more “interactive” teaching. I think if professors focus on these interactive elements–and become better interacting with the students–it would go a long way to decreasing the likelihood of us becoming obsolete.
Thanks for sharing your online packet and will look forward to using it sometime.
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