The workshop, however, was somewhat of a disappointment. A significant part of it was dedicated to "clickers" (little remote controls that students can use to select the "right" answer from a multiple choice assignment). The use of clickers is pretty much the most passive form of student response that I can possibly imagine, so it seemed strange to spend so much time on them during a workshop that was supposed to be about facilitating class discussions.
What seemed very interesting, though, is that the person giving the workshop kept referring to our university students as "kids" and even "children". Consequently, most activities suggested were somewhat childish in nature. Round robin, numbered heads - even the names of the activities didn't sound very serious. As I wrote yesterday, the last thing our students need is to be further infantilized by their professors.
The workshop began with a demonstration of ice-breaker activities, where we had to approach people we don't know and ask them about cartoons they watched and their hand sizes. It is needless to say that such an activity will be very intimidating for our autistic participants, which the workshop organizer, a specialist in communication disorders, should have known. Breaking the ice in a classroom is crucial, especially when a lot of group work will be required in the course. Lazy teachers place the burden of ice-breaking on the students. Of course, you can force them to get up and approach strangers with freaky questions with complete disregard for how uncomfortable it will make them feel. An alternative approach - which is the one I use - is to take the duty of breaking the ice upon myself. With each new group of students, it takes a while to figure out who will be made uncomfortable by certain types of activities. However, as hard and time-consuming as that is, a responsible educator cannot shirk such a responsibility.
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