I teach a practical application of information technology and information literacy for personal and professional productivity at a university and a community college. Every semester it was the same thing. My undergraduate students did not have their homework completed. I would ask, “Why?” They would gave me a whole host of reasons: They had to go to work; A family member had to go to the ER; Another class was more important; They had to go to a funeral; They had the flu; They lost electricity at the house.
Okay, so how could they get the degree when they seem to have no time to review their lessons for the course?
The busy undergraduate college students already knew how to read books on their tablets and smartphones. They also knew how to use a blog. These students also knew how to use Microsoft Office (Outlook, Excel, Access, Word and Power Point). So, why not communicate through the tools of their lives—tablets and smartphones?
I wanted to catch their attention so I got an account with GoAnimate.com and created a teaching assistant. She would review what we had gone over in class and then test the students in their own homes and/or workplaces. Then, I created a blog where the students would check-in with ELA, my Electronic Library Assistant, for their homework. They could also subscribe to her feed (feedburner.google.com) so that when she had a new lesson, they would be e-mailed.
At times, I have her come to the class and help me give the lesson for that day. Sometimes, she will bring guest speakers pertinent to the books we were reading or the topics we were discussing. As music echoed throughout the classroom from her animated newsroom, the students would take notes in class and become more vocal in the discussions.
I have used ELA for almost 3 years now, and at the end of the semester, each student keeps telling me that they would not have made it through the semester if it was not for ELA getting on them to study. Her objectives are based on my parents’ 1985 teaching method, called “The Three T’s”. It began with parents talking to their children about the lesson, tinkering or helping their children to practice exercises in the lesson and then to travel to places for more information (nowadays, it is through the Internet).
ELA follows up on my students after class and during class. She tells them what they should have gotten from the lesson that day and allows them to tinker with some ideas about the lesson through tests that students could take through their tablets and/or smartphones. The students travel when she leads them to either physical places (museums or experts in town) or web addresses on the Internet. They take the time to hear ELA and then find themselves ready for face-to-face class discussions with me.