Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

As a follow-on to last night’s work with social network application development,  today’s sections of my MIS class were devoted to walking the class through the systems development process for social network applications.  We talked about the textbook case from Experiencing MIS (2nd Ed.) to identify the case company’s business needs.  Then we investigated key terms around viral marketing and viral hooks. After introducing the concept of viral distribution, I asked the class to generate a list of things that make something (like a YouTube video) potentially viral.  Concepts like funny, scary, emotional, unique, easy-to-share, educational, and politically charged came up.

We then spent some time looking at examples online of viral marketing campaigns including the Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” and its derivatives, Burger King’s Subservient Chicken, Starburst’s Berries and Cream ad, the Embrace Life seat belt PSA as well as wing suit base jumpers.  After comparing and contrasting these, we talked about how good viral efforts need to do more than just “create buzz.” They also need to be able to support the organizations strategic goals (e.g., did Old Spice actually make money?).

To help students understand what social networking applications are for, we looked into the Facebook Application Directory and looked at friend quizzes, Trip Advisor’s map sharing application, and a variety of Facebook games including Farmville, Frontierville, and Social City.  I talked about the business model for these types of applications and discussed some of the ideas in my two previous posts.  Afterward, I assigned the students to take 5-10 minutes to browse applications on Facebook to get ideas for how MRV (the textbook case company) might use the functionality available through social networking platforms and to list some possible applications that could be inspirational for an MRV, “Let’s go rafting” application.

As I went around the classroom, I joked it was difficult to tell whether the students were on task or simply playing games and watching videos.  We got some useful examples and the exercise led to an interesting (but too short) discussion about different options for such an application. Across both sections some of the ideas included, using a Facebook Page instead of an application to focus on community development among existing and potential customers, using a rafting game to generate experience points that can be converted to discounts or promotional items, using an application as a travelogue tool to track where people have been and to share photos, videos, and narratives of the experience, and creating an application to identify interest in potential rafting sites and to plan future expeditions.

Overall, I think today’s exercise was worthwhile. I wanted my students to understand how fuzzy and complicated systems definition and requirements analysis can be. My biggest challenge today, I think, was estimating how much time everything was going to take. We could easily spend a full week on an exercise like this.  So today’s activity didn’t feel completed, but we have to move on next week.  Hopefully over time, I’ll get a better feeling for how much can be accomplished in a single class period.

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I’ve had some experiences in my teaching this week that have left me seeking a greater focus in what I choose to teach my students. I heard through a colleague in my department that one of my students in my management information systems course feels like they’re in a snowstorm with so much new stuff coming at them. I keep feeling like 60 minutes is insufficient time, particularly in that class to have a meaningful discussion about even half of the material in the chapter of reading assigned for each day in class. We discussed two major topics (a review of principles of competitive advantage and an introduction to computer hardware), and we didn’t have enough time before the class session finished.  My colleague, who has taught this class, empathized with me, but indicated I’m still trying to cover too much, particularly when taking into account the size of my class and the language barriers we are working with here at BYU Hawaii. He said I’m just going to have to figure out which arm to feed to the shark, because something’s going to have to go.

I spent a lot of time over the weekend trying to get my class sessions more structured and modular, but apparently I need to streamline my overall approach further.  It seems I need to pick a single learning objective to focus each class session on, and to craft learning activities to support that single objective. I’m going to need to be more diligent in making the identification of each day’s learning objective a matter of prayer. Another colleague shared his teaching philosophy with me–that our job is to light a fire of interest in their hearts and to get them interacting with these tools as much as possible and let them direct their learning. It appears then, that I need to have the faith that, if I can motivate my students and provide them with enough of a foundation, that they will be able to return to the text or other reference material as they need more information.

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I just watched an interesting video of Bruce Schneier discussing the future of the IT Security industry. His arguments parallel Nick Carr’s discussion of trends toward utility computing. Schneier argues that as outsourcing trends continue, we’ll see the IT security become the focus of firms providing the outsourced services (like Facebook & Gmail) and security will become part of the bundle of services rather than a single product to be marketed to businesses / end users.  He bases his arguments on Tversky and Kanneman’s prospect theory, which indicates that individuals are more willing to accept a reward-based risky sale / option than a fear-based risky sale / option.

In addition to leading me to think more seriously about an important trend in the security industry, the long-term perspective, which Schneier builds by drawing on the past and projecting into the future of computing and IT security specifically, also reminds me of how important it is for me to educate my students for the demands they will face in the future rather than simply the skills they need today.

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After a very momentous new faculty training yesterday, I set out today to seriously begin my preparations for my fall semester courses. (Classes start on Thursday). I spent much of the day familiarizing myself with the textbook and other resources for my network services management (with Windows 2003) course. I’ve been very impressed by a book, that was given to me yesterday called What the Best College Teachers Do. The book discusses (among many other things) the perspective that classroom instruction is often most effective when teachers approach knowledge as something that is cocreated rather than transferred. In the spirit of that principle, I’m trying to set the class up so that we can have meaningful knowledge producing interactions rather than passive learning focused lectures. Admittedly, this is a hard task, particularly since I’m preparing this course for the first time. But I really want to interact with my students rather than repackaging the textbook material during class. And I really want them to learn to engage with the topic managing a network server in a way that will help them to both develop technical skills they can use in their future work, but also to understand the personal and leadership issues that are reflected in server configuration.

I’m also trying to find ways to make the classroom time more productive–pushing administrative activities like homework submissions outside of the class time, so that we can use our time together more effectively.  It’s going to require me to be even more prepared for class, but hopefully the Lord will magnify my efforts if my desires are right.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get my students to build more and become invested in their work and learn through experimentation. I think this video by John Seely Brown captures some of the things I’m trying to accomplish in the classroom. To me, however, the challenge appears to be that this kind of thinking requires a complete restructuring of class preparation and student assessment. Time is focused on building, sharing and critiquing things. In some classes, like Web Design and Programming, I can see this being more readily implemented. But what about courses with “softer” skill sets? Can we get students in an intro to MIS course to build, share, and critique things that get evaluated based on their functionality as well?

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