Earlier this week I ran a workshop with our 3rd year physio students, as part of my SAFRI project where I’m looking at how participation in a social network can impact reflective learning practices in a community. Unlike the other workshops I’ve run, I’m going to be running this assignment, which will see the students posting 2 reflective pieces based on ethical dilemmas they’ve experienced while on their clinical placements. I was struck by a few thoughts as I was going over some of the activity I observed both during and after the workshop.
This group is by far the most technologically sophisticated group I’ve run the workshop to date. As we were setting up their profile pages, some of the students were logging into their Facebook accounts to pull in those photos to add to our social network. Most of what I was explaining wasn’t new, and even for those who have no experience with any other social networks, they caught on pretty quickly.
I learned that at least one of them enjoys photography, and not only enjoys it but shares his fantastic pictures on Tumblr. I would probably never have learned that about him if it wasn’t for this little experiment of mine. I think that that’s one of the enormous benefits of social networks…that we might actually engage with students in ways that would never come up in class. I mean, how many times do we ask students what their hobbies are? And even if we do, and they choose to mention it, will it ever match up to being able to see it? After exploring some of the photos from this student, I came across one of his short posts, which is one of the most inspiring things I’ve read in a while.
It was quite exciting for me not to have to listen to any moaning when I introduced this assignment. I also haven’t read anything negative about either the assignment or the network, which is refreshing. I did have one student report that the “workshop sucked”, although he hasn’t yet responded to my request for any suggestions for improvement. We still have issues with some of them not having computer or internet access at home, but I think that being on campus for at least a short while during the week is enough time to participate.
I have one more workshop to do with the first year students, which I’m hoping to finish sometime next week. Then it’s just a case of waiting for the assignments to finish running, survey the students to determine their experiences using the network, and finally to analyse their activity to see if there was any reflection / community building going on. I’m going to actively facilitate this group, as opposed to the relatively passive stance that other lecturers took when their assignments were running. I’m interested in seeing if this group has a better experience with active facilitation, as opposed to just being left to their own devices.