Day 14: Tough Love

23 09 2009

I can say in good conscience that I didn’t teach my students a single thing today. But that’s not to say they didn’t learn anything. Actually I cancelled class and assigned them to go hear one of several speakers who were on campus for a large conference; if my students wanted credit for attending, they had until 11 pm to send me a synopsis of the session they attended. What did I do all day? Ironically, I sat and wrote many of these posts you are reading, since I was a little bit behind when we launched the site.

Of all the achievements I’ve pulled off in this experiment, Day 13 was perhaps the best. No, I’m not talking about finding quiz software that really works; Day 13 was the day when I showed my students what parenting authors like to call “tough love.” We are now almost five weeks into the semester, and we’ve invested many hours in getting the students up to speed on the iPhone interface and our class policies and procedures. But every week, when it’s time for the quiz, we would have 5-8% who couldn’t take it, either due to phone problems or lack of a phone altogether. Day 13 was the day we fixed this problem.

The Friday before, I sent a class update by email. I also told my students that from that point on they would need to have their phone at every class meeting, since it was really no different than a textbook or a pen and paper. I would not be taking paper copies of the quizzes to class any more, so any student who was present but unable to take the test online would have to come to my office and take a make-up quiz. Fair, but firm.

As the morning dawned, I steeled my nerves for the inevitable chorus of woe. Sure enough, one poor student had battery problems and wasn’t sure hers would work, but in order to avoid the make-up she decided to try anyway. It worked. In fact, I had only one student out of the entire class who couldn’t take it (his battery died), and he came in without fanfare to take the makeup that afternoon.

In the days since that policy change, I have not yet had a single student complain that the policy is unfair or punitive. Ironically, this seems to be one of those issues that was a much larger concern to me than to them. And as of late in the semester (when I’m finally getting this entered) the day I applied tough love continues to be a major milestone in my connected learning journey.

Victory is sweet.





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