The Unplugged Professor


Professors camping
Do you remember last time you went camping?

 On any given week, in my “traditional” face-to-face classes I use the computer available in the classroom and many digital tools: Google Docs to facilitate class discussions, readings  and analysis done by students; the criticized PowerPoint; Voice Thread; YouTube videos; CD player or the Internet to find relevant data. The class is usually fluid, as we move from one activity to the next, and between digital tools without much disruption; however, last Wednesday, things didn’t turned out as expected. I tried to log in into MyCI without success. I clicked a few keys  but nothing was working; after five minutes of trying, I gave up …but then… worried, “What would I do for the next 240 minutes?”  After panicking for a few seconds, I turned around and called the white board my new best old friend!

It was strange to go back to a more lecture-centric class for three hours. I felt especially frustrated because the topic of that session, Marketing Globally, required a lot of visual inputs. During the break, I had to quickly come up with some “unplugged” activities to keep the students engaged for another hour and half!

I quickly improvised and decided to share a relevant HBR podcast; “China and the biggest Start-Up you’ve probably never heard of “ using my iPhone. I introduced the idea of active listening to the students and wrote key concepts on the board. I gave each student a marker and, as they were listening to the podcast, they were instructed to walk to the board and write relevant words inspired by the talk. I sat and observed. What a powerful class moment! The podcast started and students got up and wrote. Then they sat down and got up to write more. They did this multiple times. It almost felt like an improvisation dance class … and the white board turned into a colorful, collaborative canvas of ideas and reflections. I couldn’t take the white board home (uhm! Google Doc would have allowed me to do so ;->) but here they are some pictures. We wrapped up the activity with a dynamic discussion.

White Board
Students captured HBR podcast’s main ideas
White Board
Image of our board

The students have already reflected and shared positive feedback about the activity in their weekly online (!) journal entry.

Initially, I thought this entry could give arguments to the “ no laptops in the classroom supporters*. I anticipated hearing some voices saying, ”We told you so”;  then, I realized that this wasn’t about the use  vs. non-use of laptops and technology in the classroom. Once again my online teaching has built and reinforced my capacity to adapt and be creative in my face-to-face classes. I couldn’t have done this “unplugged active learning activity” if hadn’t discovered and explored the possibilities associated with the used of emerging technologies. Although courses may be online/blended vs. face-to-face,  professors are not . As of now, there is a perceived dichotomy between online/blended and face-to-face teaching; I believe that the dichotomy will disappear in the future. The fuzzy line is quickly growing fuzzier!

What do you think? Explore the possibilities and join the conversation! @TLIatCI

Maria Ballesteros-Sola

Faculty Lead – Online & Blended Community

* Special thanks to Dr. Ornelas-Hidgon for sharing this relevant article.

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