Posted tagged ‘students’

Leave the Laptop at Home?

October 5, 2007

Taking NotesHere is yet more news report of frustrated professors having a difficult time figuring out what to do when technology enters the classroom. Often, the ‘solution’ is to ban them from the classroom, as some professors at this particular university are doing. Other institutions have done the same thing. I struggle with this as well, as I teach college students, often in a computer lab full of computers. We talk about the arrangement and type of computers condusive to a collaborative community in the classrom. I like to be able to see everyone’s computer screen rather than have rows of monitors that serve as walls between me and the students. It just makes things easier for me. It also makes things easier for the students, who are able to share with their peers more easily and are able to group in flexible ways in the classroom. Laptops make this even easier to achieve. However, when desks are in rows and students are all facing the lecturer who is lecturing… and laptop screens are up, fingers are busy, and no eye contact is being made with the lecturer, I do think problems begin to emerge. Let’s be real here… there are so many distractions sitting on one’s desk with a laptop… IMing, emailing, shopping, browsing, games,…. If I was a bored student sitting in a boring lecture, then why not?

Eureka!

The proportion of distracted students drops off significantly when there is a challenging and engaging dialog going on as part of the lecture… when students are more than just scribes. The few that choose to tune out for whatever reason should experience fairly immediate natural reprecussions – bad grades. But, this is not a fair analysis when one is a lecturer in a hall of 100-200 students. Then what? Is it time to rethink this particular model of instruction? What drives it anyway? Is it economics and the dollar, or is it sound pedagogy? Why is it that somehow we can leave sound padagogy behind in higher education because ‘it has always been done that way’ or “I did just fine in my class of 150 students.” or “It separates those who can and those who can’t.”, or “It teaches discipline and memorization of your content.”, or is it some combination of all of the above? I have been thinking about this for some time now. Do we just accept that some institutions of higher education are businesses… Learning factories? Will students begin looking for other alternatives in the near future? And, if class size is not the issue here and laptops are not welcome in smaller classes, then what is the issue – really? If a lecturer wants a quality class discussion, free of clackity-clack on the keyboard, why not just say, “Close your lids.” Any thoughts?