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I guess one question is the extent to which a general education should be concerned about immediate real-world application. Quite a bit of what we teach may not have that right-now context, but create knowledge (hopefully deep knowledge) that is more useful down the line.

Is it likely that the technological "solution" of buying an iPad to motivate the learning of Mandarin will further popularize the idea that all learning must somehow have current obvious relevance? And is this a good thing?


Thanks for the comment! I completely agree with you that much of general education doesn't immediately impact the lives of our students. I think it is difficult for those starting college to conceptualize "building a foundation," and it is also challenging to make this more appealing than Facebook.

I guess my thought is...did students have any desire or need to learn Mandarin? It seems like the argument is...hey, use the iPad as bait, and then once they are here, they will finally understand the true joys of leaning Mandarin. I don't see this as the ideal use of technology or a sustainable strategy.

So...the opposite of relevant education is irrelevant education.

I think somewhere in the middle is relevant education disguised (to students) as irrelevant education. Teachers, not iPads, are responsible for helping students understand why they need to know the things being taught.

Public speaking is a pretty easy class to explain in terms of relevance. What are some strategies used in other disciplines? Do these change in an online environment?

*disclaimer* I have nothing against Mandarin :o)

Laura Paciorek

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. One thing that comes to mind is that I do a lot of (or quite a few) "options" in my classes both online and face-to-face. I often have options for discussion posts, options for assignments, and sometimes other kinds of options. Sometimes there's no option because it doesn't make sense to have options. However, I try to think of some options, especially for more high-stakes assignments. There are other ways to deal with relevance, but this is just one thing that came to mind as I read your post. I find that usually students are excited about their work because they are doing something that is relevant to them (and I can still insure they know what they have to know about the content no matter what option they choose). Does this idea fit with your discussion? It makes grading fun for me, too, since there's variety.

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