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  1. Laptops in class | Physio 2.0 November 18, 2008 at 7:20 am |
  2. Derek November 19, 2008 at 8:23 pm |

    I interviewed a few professors who make good use of student laptops in the classroom for my teaching center’s podcast. A biomedical engineering professor has his students brainstorm solutions to challenge problems via their laptops, and he has his students work through simulations on their laptops during class so he can troubleshoot.

    A couple of professors who teach a course on the role of narrative in various media (books, films, video games) make use of a variety of technologies in their course. In their podcast episode, they talk about ways their students acted as “Google jockeys” (I love that term) to enhance class discussions.

    I think that increasing use of smart phones (iPhones and other Web-enabled cell phones) by students will pose similar challenges and opportunities. Using such devices as classroom response systems has a lot of promise, and I expect we’ll see more and more instructors using them like Christian Jernstedt in your first vignette.

  3. Scott McLeod November 30, 2008 at 11:36 pm |

    The whole issue is just goofy.

    First of all, who in their right mind expects students to sit and listen to them for 50 minutes (or longer) without EVER wandering off mentally? It’s unreasonable and goes against how we know the brain works. You can’t fight nature!

    Second, as Seth Godin notes, if your target audience isn’t listening, it’s not their fault but yours. Just like we tell K-12 teachers: classroom management (i.e., student attention) stems from good instruction.

    Finally, these digital devices – particularly in conjunction with the Internet – are the most empowering things we humans have yet created. Why don’t we start figuring out how to use them productively in class rather than banning them?

    Our K-12 and higher ed students think we’re totally clueless and they’re right.

  4. Eloise December 1, 2008 at 12:14 am |

    I have mixed responses to this. I teach numeracy skills for job screening to undergraduates and don’t allow calculators in most classes. Why? Well in part because most of the tests used ban them, in part too because I want them to get to grasp the processes with their brains not their fingers so they can learn useful skills for the calculator and computer age like estimating, which is often forgotten.

    However I also teach students with autistic spectrum disorders and couldn’t live without a computer and the internet. Whether it’s researching core materials, checking minor details, taking legible notes of our discussion (my handwriting it dire, the students all write even worse than me) and then emailing them to my home account, their student account, occasionally to their core subject teacher etc. the technology makes the whole thing run more smoothly than before it was available.

    Whilst I’m not a big fan of judging an institution by its grades, I’d love to know how the various institutions have found grades affected by their stances on using laptops. Forget the teacher/lecturer/professor and his/her biases here, what hard data do the pro-laptop lobby have that it improves results? Equally, and even-handedly, what evidence is there from the anti-lobby that laptops decrease results – which are still the way that the outside world measures learning after all.

  5. Martin Jorgensen December 1, 2008 at 1:26 am |

    I find it hard to understand that these discussions can still take place, that educators are still banning laptop use in favor of taking notes by hand, or switching off wireless access. Crazy.

    We can’t afford to take a softly, softly approach to this issue. We can’t afford to put our heads in the sand. Students are right at home with this medium, so why aren’t we leveraging it for all it’s worth?!



  6. Joel December 1, 2008 at 1:52 pm |

    I am thankful that these discussions are taking place and I thank you so much for sharing this resource. I wholeheartedly believe there is far too much benefit in laptops and wireless access to ban or limit it, but it’s also very important to recognize that there are always going to be tradeoffs involved. Being unprepared for all these problems will likely end in nothing but wasted money, classtime, and jaded teachers/students.

    I personally have been part of incredibly engaging classes where tablet and collaborative software (this particular software would deliver the teacher’s notes so I could listen and take notes on the lecture). In the same classes where I was engaged and energized, other students were checking email and digg. I and other students in the class would probably agree that the professor was engaging, but these students weren’t in class to learn.

    Many students are in school for certification instead of education, and that proposes a whole new set of problems. I’m not sure if there’s a 100% solution that exists, and these tradeoffs have to be seriously considered. There’s obviously the cost of infrastructure, support, training, pedagogical adaptation, discipline and preparation (let alone resources necessary to convince the others to adopt, whether the mandate came from the top down or bottom up).

    Then you have all the problems that the anti-laptop camp cites. There are classroom management software suites out there that will let you block applications, websites, etc, but they come at a price. You have to know about the problems before you can find a workable solution to them, and hopefully, open discussions like these will help people find these solutions.

  7. jeff.schumacher December 1, 2008 at 8:33 pm |

    There are plenty of things to consider when browsing during instruction in a collegiate setting. With some up front conversations, browsing can provide a much richer texture to the classroom, differentiated by student interest, background skill, and learning styles.

    I have lived the better part of almost two years in higher education classrooms (weekends primarily) where browsing an author, concept, or technical term took me deeper, for a few minutes, that the “presenter” will ever know. On multiple occasions, I went to amazon.com to purchase a title referenced only to find the extended reading as valuable as the discussion at hand.
    Here’s the point, instructors open to the process of inquiry and a constructivist approach welcome the momentum they create in their topic of study. Touchdown!

    Are all instructors comfortable with the process of my open notebook (computers) rather than the typical open notebook (spiral variety)? No. Why:

    Instructor A: I know the sum total of what you need to know – so sit back and enjoy.
    My response: I respect what you know and can be able to do, but I am not a passive learner.

    Instructor B: I will control your learning because what I want you to learn is static and the experiences I structure for you conform to the parameters of learning I have set. Tools I use help me to increase my ability to share content.
    My Response: I am more inquisitive and creative than you give me credit for. Let’s collaborate on what I can do show you what I learned, what I can do with my new learning. My tools help me to make more meaning from the content you present.

    Instructor C: I want to make sure I can cover material and manage conversations that fit our time frame.
    My Response: I respect the quality of content and pacing of instruction, which is critical to classroom management. I just need to process what you are teaching in non-linear ways.

    So, what this type of learning look like in a high school? middle school? elementary school? How can we use technologies, or structure for student use of technology, to enlarge their capacity for learning, and demonstrating what they know and can be able to do?

  8. Lexy205 January 28, 2009 at 11:55 pm |

    I feel that laptops in the classroom can be very helpful for a student. I am a junior in college right now and I do not use a laptop during class because I do not have one. Most of my classes however are lecture based. I struggle trying to keep up with notetaking and attempting to get all the information to study later. With the help of a laptop, I would have all the notes and not have a sore hand to show for it.

    Also, I can agree with the many distractions that can lead to having a laptop in the classroom. I see it all the time in one of my three hour classes. But I believe that the student is at fault if they do not pay attention. It is your job as a teacher to provide the knowledge and if the student is not listening, that is there own problem.

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