One result of the article, “Distractions in the Wireless Classroom”, which advocates limiting technology use during university lectures, has been some lively discussion on several listservs.
Generally, the discussion is a “blame the student” type of thing. There are variations on the theme; but it can be summarized as, “students are too distracted and limiting their distractions by removing their access to technology during lectures is an effective way to improve their learning”.
As the discussion has progressed over the last week it has shifted ground on two fronts: 1) it has morphed into discussion of multi-tasking and its effectiveness and 2) the status quo (lecture) side of the group has begun mis-characterizing the anti-lecture side to be arguing for “entertaining” the students.
Anthony Fontana, from Bowling Green University had an interesting response to this line of reasoning.
“They are not nervous…The correct term is “Polychron”.
‘If you’re a polychronic personality, you work happily with many things happening at one time, in a non-linear and emotional way that lets you change your plans at a moment’s notice without distress and without worrying about deadlines. It’s the opposite of the personality type that human-resource experts say works best in the modern workplace, one that’s termed monochronic: time-driven, working in a linear and orderly way, intent on getting one job completed before starting the next. ‘
Developed from Edward Hall’s theory of Polychronic Time here .”
Replace “entertain the student” with Engage the Student. . Entertainment is passive. Engagement is interactive.
Give them strategy guides, clear and achievable goals, a reward system that appeals to their sense of reputation. Give them passion and energy and yes, real world application
If I’ve had to change something… it’s an expectation that the “desired” behavior was Monochronic.
I want to know… what does a polychronic classroom look like? Is it completely digital? With SL, IM, Skype, and Google all open and working? Is it class that does not have a set time to meet, but rather a specific set of goals that must be accomplished using a highly networked collaboration of students with the teacher as ‘game master’? Can the monochron, or normative student, work asynchonously contributing at regularly scheduled times while the polychron is always interacting but not always contributing?
I believe, the key to the polychronic classroom is a highly motivated individual with an ability for both modes of operation. Otherwise, we’d have to identify and separate each type of student.
Professor Fontana raises some important points …not all students are going to thrive in a polychronic classroom. Some students will do better in the more traditional monochronic model. How will we structure our environment to engage both types of learners’? What will this polychromic classroom look like?
I think the concept of polychrons and monochrons is an interesting way to frame the discourse. It is not age or generation-based, as is Prensky’s “Digital Native, Digital Immigrant” analogy. A polychron can be any age.
Anyway, as Fontana says,
”Don’t put all you polychrons in one basket.”