Schellenberg, T. (2009) Getting the Half Attention of Students UBC e-Strategy Newsletter, May
An article that follows on from the Macleans OnCampus article, with additional references to work by Michael Wesch (Kansas State U) and Judy Hardy (University of Edinburgh), plus comments from UBC’s own Don Krug.
At the end of the UBC article, Ted Schellenberg puts the following question:
‘….even though it can be rather distracting — instructors need to embrace the changes surrounding us, in order to bring out the best in our students. Do you agree?’
Here is my response:
There are several issues here. First, does the instructor want the students to use their computers during class? If there is absolutely no need for them to use their laptops in class, then ask them to keep them closed. It’s just a tool, after all, and if it’s not needed, put it away.
However, a much more important question is: why is not the instructor making use of the fact that students have the technology? If students have relevant, related activities to do, such as searching for resources, online articles, or connections with other scholars or students, then it would be perfectly legitimate for them to be using their laptops in class.
An even more important question then arises: why do the students have to be physically present in the lecture room to do this? What is the instructor providing that uniquely requires them to be present in the room? Giving information? No, that can be provided over the net. Discussion – maybe, but that can also be done online. Seeing a professional approach an academic issue? Yes, but a lecture is not the only way to do this.
A lecture should not be the default model anymore for higher education. It is one, often valuable tool in an instructor’s toolbox, but like all tools, it should be carefully used for the tasks it does best. The same applies to laptops. If they are not required for learning purposes, turn them off.