Monday, September 29, 2014

Tech For the Expansion of Audiences

Thursday, I had the pleasure of hearing David Thuene (pronounced Toony, which is kind of awesome) discuss how he uses tech in his classroom, a pleasure which is usually reserved for those attending his panels at teaching conferences. Through the power of the University of Michigan and the awesome abilities of my tech professors, I had him hand delivered to my tech class. Mr. Thuene is not exactly you’re stereotypical techno geek. He’s much more on the touchy-feely, favorite drama teacher side. And this may be exactly what the technology field needs. He doesn’t use tech a as gizmo and he doesn’t emphasize how great technology can be for research or cool projects (although it certainly can be). Rather, what I saw him doing was using technology to connect people and expand students’ audiences.
For example, Mr. Thuene teaches English and came to the very reasonable conclusion that students shouldn’t just be writing for their English teacher. The purpose of writing is usually to reach an audience and students can be pretty limited in their learning potential if they are only writing for a teacher. Mr. Thuene had a variety of solutions for this, ranging from non-tech solutions such as inviting parents in to listen to student read essay out loud, to connecting with other students via webcam. He also had a great idea to have students advocate for a particular charity, then award money to the charity with the most votes, as an alternative to the usual persuasive essays we all had to write in high school.

The talk was full of great ideas, not all of which were directly related to technology, but it made me think about the role of technology in a people-oriented framework. (People-oriented frameworks are not my forte).  I’ve usually thought of technology as a tool for research or organization. I love the internet because it gives me literally millions of articles about whatever I need to know about. I remember listening to professors with horror as they told me about the bad old days when you had to look up paper copies of journals. However, I haven’t spent much time thinking about how amazing it was to sit in Japanese class and talk to students in Hiroshima. How fundamentally powerful connecting with people in a different country or a different school district could be. Tech gives us the ability to connect in ways that were simply unfeasible a few decades ago. Since we are supposed to be preparing students for life in a global age, helping them connect with and understand people outside of their communities is becoming more and more important. 


  1. Liz, I think you did a great job expanding on David's presentation. I really like the point you made that he bring emotion to technology and as you put it, he doesn't use it just to emphasize tech for research purposes, but to expand audiences which provides students with inspiration and motivation for their work. I remember him saying to us "be the inspiration, not the information" which I think is an excellent point and it seems as if he does it wonderfully in his classroom. I think the quote can work for technology as well. I think you're spot on when you said that maybe technology needs more people like him that like to emphasize the emotional benefits of connecting people though technology because most people think of tech as just a way to get more information. But as David shows, it can do so much more to inspire students and connect people.

  2. Great post Liz! I agree with you and Jeremy (and David) - technology does not have to be a cold, dispassionate tool. On the contrary, David has found a way for technology to be inclusive, connecting and building relationships. Even inviting parents to visit his classroom probably used technology - I would assume he emailed an invitation! As you pointed out, David is using technology as an inspiration and not information. I also really like your comment about preparing students for living in the global age. It would a disservice if we, as teachers, did not show students that the world is literally at their fingertips.

  3. Liz,
    I loved reading your post you captured his presentation wonderfully. I really like the point you made about writing as a means to reach an audience. I feel many teachers and students get caught up in the "I need to write this for Mr./Ms. so and so". That somewhat takes the taste away from the subject. writing is meant to be fed. The only way to produce great work is to practice writing to the tastes of different individuals. I also enjoyed how you mentioned that creating a community of exchange for students boosts motivation. I absolutely agree and I hope to seek ways in which I can do that in my biology classroom. Like you I appreciated that Mr. Theune provided tech based and non-tech based methods to engage students, all of which were under the umbrella of motivation and creating emotion. Loved, reading your reflection. Hope to see you soon, I never see you anymore. Let's do something about that.

    Warmest regards,

  4. Liz, I agree with your enthusiasm for David's talk, it was great! When he mentioned about creating an audience for your students, I knew he was something else! This is something I had not thought about, yes, students shouldn't just be writing for their teacher, they should have an audience. Students should be proud of the work they have done and have that audience that appreciates their work (not that we as teachers don't, because we do!) When I first heard this I had the mindset of, sure, how do we pull parents out of work? I had this thought because growing up I knew my parents could not attend school functions because they were at work and even after work they were exhausted but as David went on with his talk I came to the realization that there are other means of getting an audience than just physically having the audience present. Having students do videos that summarize what their learned in class is a great way to give students audience. I will still look for other means of getting audience for students because I think it is important that their work is shared.