Friday, February 28, 2014

Having Fun in Class

Wait..., what? Is that even allowed??

When I returned to the university last year as a professor, I had some pre-conceived notions on how kids today studied and learned...and boy was I right! As it was when I was in college a decade ago (gulp!), there are a lot of things going on in these young adults' lives that could make it hard to concentrate in class. A genuinely 'difficult' subject, a terribly boring method of instruction, a teacher you just don't like, crazed series of sleepless nights, an unstoppable chit-chatter of a seatmate, matters of the heart and the list could go on and on. Compound that now with ALWAYS ON technology that we didn't have back then - truly smart smart phones and tablets. Nimble fingers now tip-tapping under their desks to uhm, "multi-task" while being in class.

Their interpretation of what Green Architecture should have and be

Most students would be playing catch-up on their other subjects, some just can't live without updating their friends on Viber or Facebook  and many others are just lured by addictive games (Hello Candy Crush, Flappy Bird, 4 Pics 1 Word, etc.). Completely understandable but what's a teacher to do? We still have a responsibility to aid in their learning and yes to somehow, adjust to how they learn best.

While I wouldn't claim to be a "cool" professor, I am actually inquisitive and would often experiment how I could inject FUN to the classes I hold. On the contrary, most sessions I actually intend to be "boring" (hihi) if boring means getting down to business. But of course, "boring" doesn't always facilitate learning and therefore, would not even get the message across. So us teachers must take it upon ourselves to find ways and be creative to ensure we get our students' interest and attention. Such a challenging task for the uninitiated! Hence If there's a way to it a fun and "boring" class all the time then let me know -- let us know dear students! :)

Are we having too much fun? :)
A lot of the things I tried I actually gathered from how my students work and behave. Some profs may have even done it before and I do hope we could really think up more ways to make each "boring" class fun and exciting for the students :)

1. Engage THEM

I clearly remember how most college concepts were sooo vague to me until I entered the corporate world. This would be the same for students as not all of them are exposed to different businesses and process frameworks. To engage students is to engage all of their senses, engage the WHOLE of them.

I usually do this through case studies done as a group. I find this works best because they are able to tap into the different experiences/exposures of their team as they work at identifying the problem/s, researching the frameworks that could help them solve it, proposing alternative courses of action as well as their attending pros & cons and finally drafting their proposed method of solving the case.  If only the students could see themselves in action..thinking, double-guessing, testing, debating and coming to a conclusion --> I hope they could see the FUN in that! :)

Sometimes, I even let them get into character and act the situation out before breaking out into groups. The groups would then assume the point of view (POV) of their team member's character and work from there.

2. Seek out experts

Admittedly, even as educators, we can't claim to know everything; consequently, we can't teach what we don't know (or it would be hard to!). Although this could be tough to arrange for teachers who are all too busy working on their usual load like new presentations, research, updating exercises, etc., I say it is worth it!

Depending on your university's policies, you can actually invite these experts or seasoned businesspeople into your class so they can share what actually goes on in the field. I've done this with my Franchising class and I think they truly enjoyed and learned from it.

While usually this is facilitated by having the experts on stage as the students ask their questions one by one, I find that this would not be the best way to maximize the time and the expert resources that we have. Especially in the Philippines, (hay naku! hehe) we would be wasting precious minutes as students would initially be "too shy" to ask or even volunteer to go first.

I started it by introducing the expert guests and then randomly assigning the class to different groups (depending on the number of guests). This way, the setting is more intimate and more conducive for discussion, more questions are fielded and there is an over-all improvement in dialogue. It's also easier to speak and be heard and I guess more ideas will be shared.

Leaning forward and intently listening? Great sign! Throwing in questions, follow ups and participating is a better indicator :)
Here they are learning which aspects should be standardized -- e.g. should your siomai's calamansi be strictly ordered from a designated supplier or could you just get your stock from your friendly palengke; how far should a franchisee 'bend' for a franchisor -- are you compelled to sign up for the company's new business concepts?; and just how important is location, really? -- do you choose your location first before applying for a franchise or do you discuss with a franchisor first before making lease payments on your location?

Mr. Sy a consultant/franchisee for ERSAO (and a DLSU prof too!) and Ms. Shih a siomai and empanada company franchisee (Thanks to my student Derrence Lam for inviting Ms. Shih to class)

Of course it doesn't just end there! The members of both group have to interact with a member from the other group and share what they have learned with each other! Now we've really come full circle :)

P.S. Tokens, food and drinks for the guests are not really required but I find that it is a small and thoughtful gesture that they definitely deserve, given the time, effort and knowledge they shared to the class :)

3. If you can't beat them, join them

Yes, many times I would spot students playing games on their phones. Some of those games I honestly wouldn't know about if not for them. Imagine their surprise when I prepared an activity of that sort for my Real Estate class:

The eponymous 4 Pics 1 Word
As you can see, even if I tried to inject a little bit of humor to these slides, most of them are still outright CORNY (hehe). I was also pleasantly surprised that THIS ACTUALLY WORKED! Seeing them all worked up amongst their groupmates and trying to outdo the other groups made me feel relieved at the least..probably the same feeling moms get when they're able to stealthily sneak veggies in their kid's meals. But I guess they appreciate the effort to bridge the generation gap, speak their language and make at least 1.5 hours of their day in school more fun! :)

P.S. They had a hard time guessing the slide with Emma Roberts and Ate Vi (naman maka-showbiz!) and also the bottom right slide :)
My take on 4 pics, 1 word. Can you guess all of them? (See bottom of this blog for the answers)
1. Tenancy at Sufferance
2. Absorption Rate
3. Eviction Suit
4. Strip Centers


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