May 14, 2006
When someone's face is on "screensaver" mode...
I've taught with computers for many years, but I find a great deal to think about in this article, as computing in classrooms becomes more ubitquitous. When we embraced computers to enhance learning, what rode along with it was IMing, email-checking, shopping, daydreaming, and distractions. Not to mention rampant plagiarism.
How do we keep the gains and peel off the more problematic aspects? I don't know. The person quoted down below says the problem isn't the technology, it's behavioral, more on par with passing notes and doodling on notebooks.
Are students truly that bored and unengaged in class, or perhaps with everything? Or are they becoming conditioned to expect constant stimulation with ever shortening attention spans?
And can students read longer books and articles without doodling, checking email, or watching TV, even engaging immersive fiction? Because on one hand they could be unchallenged and bored, OR they may not understand detail and nuance at the level that advanced university work should require, so their eyes have just glazed over because they can't keep up.
I know young people to be quite clever and ambitious, but I am also just overwhelmed by declining literacy levels in the U.S. I was just talking with a friend last night at a party. She studied law in Europe after finishing her JD in the U.S. She has noticed the falling literacy levels at the college level as well, and she wryly noted that there isn't a similar decline in Europe, so Americans tend to not come off as very smart or well-read (although my friend is both of these things).
Professors want their classes 'unwired'
Posted 5/3/2006 5:44 PM ETBy Maia Ridberg, The Christian Science MonitorNEW YORK — When Don Herzog, a law professor at the University of Michigan, asked his students questions last year, he was greeted with five seconds of silence and blank stares.
He knew something was wrong and suspected he knew why. So he went to observe his colleagues' classes — and was shocked at what he found.
"At any given moment in a law school class, literally 85 to 90% of the students were online," Professor Herzog says. "And what were they doing online? They were reading The New York Times; they were shopping for clothes at Eddie Bauer; they were looking for an apartment to rent in San Francisco when their new job started.... And I was just stunned."
Wireless Internet access at universities was once thought to be a clear-cut asset to education. But now a growing number of graduate schools — after investing a fortune in the technology — are blocking Web access to students in class because of complaints from professors.
The problem professors face is "continuous partial attention," an expression coined by Linda Stone, a former Microsoft executive, to describe how people check e-mail and try to listen to someone at the same time.
"As a teacher, you can tell when someone is there, but it's just their body that is there," says Douglas Haneline, a professor of English literature at Ferris State University in Grand Rapids, Mich. "Their face is on 'screensaver,' so to speak, because what they are really doing is checking their e-mail."
A growing number of professors now want computers — not just the Internet — out of class. Two professors at Harvard Law School have independently banned laptops in their classes, and many other law professors around the country have done the same.
For some, the issue comes down to learning styles. Professor June Entman of the University of Memphis Law School in Tennessee says some students with laptops end up typing every word said in class.
"When you focus primarily on transcribing everything said, you are not making good use of the class as a practice opportunity," she wrote in an e-mail to her law students, explaining her decision to ban laptops.
Law school students say laptops are good for taking neat notes and e-mailing them to friends who miss class. Laptop notetaking is still largely a graduate-school phenomenon, but the practice will probably spread to undergrads — unless teachers balk.
The UCLA Anderson School of Management realized the futility of blocking Internet access last year. In 2004, when it began offering wireless, it installed blocking devices in classrooms. Last year, however, the school decided to remove the block.
"We all came to realize that if students wanted to communicate electronically, they could do so by hooking up their cellphones to their laptops or by just text messaging," wrote Susan Gutman, an official at the school. "In some ways, student behavior is the same as it ever was. In the old days, they chatted with each other, passed notes, read the newspaper, or did other work in class.... Now they surf, IM, and e-mail or play solitaire. The issue is behavioral."
"Every single person I have ever seen bring a computer to class has also surfed the Web or been on IM," says Amy Kornell, an undergraduate at the University of California at Davis. "I saw one girl watch a whole episode of Gray's Anatomy. But I would guess that solitaire is the most popular game."
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