Monday, April 21, 2008

Laptop U: Where No One Looks at the Professor

For some reason I'm in a negative mood about Web 2.0 tools and education. Reading this article posted at Pajamas Media, got me wondering if what is necessary at the primary school level is some form of instruction on showing respect and prioritizing your life. Written by a professor who chooses to be anonymous so that her students don't discover "she is onto them."

I'm in the midst of a brilliant lecture. I'm very well prepared for this class. I have thirty or forty Powerpoint slides that boil down the textbook chapter into handy outlines. I have included outside material that I spent hours finding and scanning. I have even inserted a two minute clip from a news show that someone had uploaded to YouTube. I also genuinely find this topic fascinating, so I'm able to talk passionately about it. I'm pacing and making wild arm movements. I'm wearing a short skirt.

But about half the class isn't staring at the wonder that is me. Their eyes are glued to their computer monitors. There is a background sound of clacked-clack as they transcribe my lecture. At least, that's what they tell me what they're doing. I cant see their monitor screens. Its more likely that they're IM-ing their girlfriends and flirting with boys on MySpace and downloading songs.

Part of me wonders when adults ceded responsibility for how learning should occur to the students. How far does an instructor have to go to keep learners interested in the topic? If learners are allowed to surf the Internet without repercussions in the classroom, how will they respond in the workplace?

I am not arguing that we should tell them to check their laptop at the door, or schools should turn off Internet access in the classroom. But there needs to be some guidance. At the very least we need to re-instill a belief that we should show all people the kind of respect and attentiveness that we would expect from others when we speak.

Or maybe, the lecture hall should become a thing of the past, a quaint anachronism akin to the chalk board and the fountain pen. If lectures can be recorded and streamed, if lecture notes can be posted, and assignments delivered via the class web site why do we need to bring the students together in one room

There are winners and losers with each new technology and maybe, for better or worse, the time of the formal educator, the sage-on-the-stage and the classroom is passing. Tags:

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