Tapped In Member Perspectives: Meet Cynthia Alvarado
Cynthia Alvarado is a school media specialist in Dearborn, Michigan, a doctoral candidate and a sometimes adjunct professor at Wayne State University.
I have had an interest in computers since the early eighties. In fact, when I decided to stay home with baby number four (I now have 5 grown children), I purchased a home computer to program and play a bit to keep me sane. In the early nineties my children were in school, the PTA was providing computers and parents to help supervise the computer lab and I had found myself a new job. I went back to college to get a masters degree in school media just in time to be one of the first to use the new graphic interface to the World Wide Web. I was working as a grad assistant in the library science computer lab the day they installed it. It was SOOOO Exciting. I could sit at my desk at work and see things put up by my old buddies at the Technologico in Monterrey, Mexico, where we had lived a few years earlier. It was great.
Obviously, when I became employed in the school system, I was an early adopter and all around technology cheerleader for my building and my district. Then I went back to pick up the bilingual certification I had let lapse during my travels. Since I was a doctoral student and the bilingual and language ed department was always short staffed, I was asked to teach at the university level at Wayne State. My advisor had always asked me for technology advice. He thought I would be a good person to make the BBE 5000 class that all students take also have a technology component. For several semesters, I taught the class face to face, with all the homework online. I introduced websites and had students post to message boards responding to questions.
Last spring, to my surprise, a colleague in my elementary school day job said, "I see your course is going online in the fall." I looked and sure enough, the schedule said that it was an online course. I decided to give it a try, although I had always thought that the small group discussions were really the best way to teach about multicultural issues on a diverse campus like Wayne State. I tried to run the class on the Blackboard system the university provided, but there were too many technical problems. I had been using Tapped In for my own professional development as a media specialist and I saw it as a better option for real time chat. Amazingly enough, I've found the Tapped In version of the course has much more participation in discussion than face-to-face ever had. We have had deep discussion on very personal topics like race, religion and gender. On Tapped In there is never just one answer to a question. A barrage of answers arrive sometimes simultaneously for every question. Attendance online has been nearly 100%. Tapped In is clearly as effective, if not more effective than the face-to-face lecture was. If student engagement is the barometer, Tapped In is off the participation scale. I'm anxious to do more online instruction!