Being boring

An article in the NY Times discusses Wi-Fi in the classroom. That’s not really an issue I have to deal with :). It’s garnered a lot of discussion, especially on
Slashdot. It seems that most agree that if students aren’t interested, the prof should be more interesting.

And the thing is, I find this hard to argue with. As a student, I was often bored in classes. I was even bored, oft-times, in classes I loved. And those who are in meetings with me know that I have a heck of a time not doodling or working on something else at the same time, so I have a lot of sympathy for students in the same position.

But, I know that if students come to class they learn. So what’s to be done?

Students actually like that I gave pop quizzes in my com theory class. In the evaluations, they said that they hated it at the time, but it helped keep them focused. But I don’t really think I should be disciplining students. Honestly, if they aren’t getting anything out of the class, they shouldn’t have to come.

But that means a different evil: I have to use tests to evaluate the students, especially if I can’t evaluate them on their performance in class discussions, etc..

All of this angst has a concrete focus. I still am unsure of how I am going to reformulate the Media Law class for next semester. I have seriously considered giving the students the choice, but I know what a headache that can lead to.

I’ll have to decide quick.

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  1. Posted 1/2/2003 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    This point was made in the article and I agree that it’s one of the more important ones: doing other things on the computer distracts other students as well. And that’s not fair to the other students. I liked the idea of having students with computers who may do other things sit in the back.

    I’m one of those people whose attention will easily wander but I still think doodling or daydreaming is different from surfing the Web. Perhaps because it’s not a particular task you need to achieve anyway but something pretty freeform from which you can easily come back to the lecture or even pay attention halfway while doing it. Checking email or reading online articles is very concrete activity that can be all-consuming (not to say that daydreaming cannot be:).

    Overall, I find it not only rude to the professor but to other students as well. I haven’t yet figured out how I’ll deal with it, but I’ll have to think of something.

  2. alex
    Posted 1/2/2003 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    I agree, as far as that goes. I’ve taught in labs before, and had no difficulty asking students to turn off their monitors when I was lecturing. Playing solitaire or checking your email can be far more distracting than reading a newspaper, which is distracting enough, IMHO. I wrote a comment to this effect on Boing Boing.

    As far as its upside: My wife, Jamie, is a law student, and one of several who has a Wi-Fi enabled laptop in classes. The theory behind it–that you can get to Lexis and call up a case in a pinch–never really happens. Pretty much, if people use the connection at all it is to check email. Although I can think of some uses for it in teaching, few would work if only a smattering of students were connected. So, while I dig on the idea of having wireless campuses (UW was nearly there when I left), the use in the classroom is still a bit more questionable, I think.

  3. Jennifer
    Posted 1/2/2003 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I liked the quizzes you gave in COM Theory because like you said, it made me read the material. To be honest, I wouldn’t have read it if I knew that I wasn’t going to be asked about it. And to put my 2 cents in about Media Law (considering I will be an IA), I think the way you are going to structure the class is perfect. Some classes/professors are too easy on the students and that makes the student slack even more. College isn’t supposed to be easy and to tell you the truth, I excepted college to be like how Media Law will be. Students should be prepared to handle it and if they aren’t, we will find out after the drop date. I know that no matter how hard it will be, or seem to be, it will be interesting (and fun at times) because I know what kind of professor you are and I am looking forward to seeing how students react to it.

  4. alex
    Posted 1/5/2003 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Man, you’ll have to be my heavy. I’ll get the three of you to stand behind me in dark suits and if anyone in the class complains you can take them out for a “chat” :).

    I’m not going to do a major restructuring of the class, but I am going to tweak it. I am, for example, going to back off in the way karma directly affects the grade. It seems to me that this is just inviting people to collude. It did last semester. Besides, there is the whole issue of competition vs. collaboration. I think I may just use Greymatter, and it will work like it does on Kara’s site. Then, I will rely upon my massively talented IAs to help to assemble this info into a usable set of scores at the end of the semester.

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