Not another Bruno grammy

I’m writing this while watching the Grammy’s, waiting for Beyoncé to appear on the stage, but my hopes are dwindling with ten minutes left. 🙁

I wanted to build off of last weeks post, where I talked about specific classes that engaged me most in my educational experience, and shift to educators that I’ve seen that engaged well with students. Specifically, I’m thinking of a professor I TA’d for while working on my masters in paleontology at UT Austin. The professor was, and still is, pretty eccentric in the most endearing way. He’s very sarcastic and is known to cut someone off and ask them to start over if they use, uh, um or really any other meaningless filler word while speaking. This professor taught a course in the spring called, Age of Mammals. Most of the students taking the course were non-majors and the professor aimed to make the material accessible and about the students. He always started the first lecture by sitting on a table in front of a 300 student lecture auditorium asking why the students were there. He wanted to know what they wanted out of the class and would write the syllabus with the students, based on why they chose to enroll in the course. He did his best not to sit in front of the class and lecture, and would always end class by asking, ‘Does anyone have any queries, quandaries, qualms, or concerns?’ Like I said, he’s eccentric.

One of this professors big rules in class was no electronics. No cell phones. No laptops. Nothing. As TA’s we were supposed to sit in the back and go up to any student who was on their phone and ask them to please wait until after class. The main reason this professor was so adamant about no electronics was that he felt it wasn’t fair to any student sitting around the perpetrator, because, he knows mammals are attracted to color and movement and this would distract anyone within eyeshot of the student on their electronic device.

This naturally got me thinking about how I would handle electronics in my classroom down the road. For that reason, I loved reading the NPR article Amy found to include in this weeks reading. I really appreciate Allia Griffin’s take on it, where she thinks they are a distraction, but mainly because they cut off social interaction amongst students. This says a lot about how students are not only learning from the person up front who is being paid to speak, but also from the experiences and backgrounds of their peers. I also appreciated Jesse Stommel’s approach to the matter and that technology in the classroom can be a conversation. I think having an adult conversation about it with the students is necessary and likely pretty effective. I really believe that if students connect with the professor, they won’t want to be distracting themselves and others, because they respect the professor and the learning environment.

Ultimately, I don’t quite know my final stance of technology in the classroom, but I love the idea of engaging students with collaborative documents or anonymous polls. I think there is something to be said for a happy medium and I think that develops naturally from class to class depending on the group of students. It’d be great to hear how others have, or have not, included technology in their teaching. Oh, and if anyone knows what the difference is between record of the year, song of the year, and album of the year, lemme know.

9 thoughts on “Not another Bruno grammy

  1. I really have no idea if there is a difference (in answer to the question you asked in the end)….what I do know is that you brought up some thoughtful considerations on the use of technology in the class setting. I completely agree that learning, knowledge, and any of the correlates are co-constructed. So if someone is in fact being distracted on their cell phones (or texting on their Macs) then that contributes to a poor co-construction…but I wonder if there could be a way in which the bright distracting things could work in the favor of the professor? One project that I was involved in what having students make models of the brain when I was teaching high school seniors and actually part of their project was to look things up on their phone, to work collaboratively on constructing this 3D model and building on what they already knew. I was surprised that at the end of it they knew all these random facts about the brain that I had definitely not taught them and they co-constructed their knowledge based on who they were working with in small teams but also as a larger class when they shared their projects and told other students about these random facts. I wonder how that would work in this class you took which sounds fascinating to me.

  2. This is a constant internal battle for me as well (both the award categories and technology). I see all sides of the argument and agree with many of them. I completely agree that it is difficult to know the best way. I think it comes down to a case by case basis. I don’t think we can have a blanket rule for all of our classes. I can see some topics being served by technology in the classroom where students are engaging with each other around technology in order to accomplish a goal, doing research to support their in-class work. I can also think of a great many topics where technology is a huge hindrance to learning the material, such as the class I TA for in Human Development- Principles of Human Services. That class begins to get HD majors comfortable with what helping professions are and the skills needed to do that kind of work effectively. Human connection needs to start without the electronics present. There is nothing worse than trying to connect with another person while their eyes are glued to their phone or computer screen.

    Long story short, perhaps we need to be thinking about technology on this case by case basis even within a course itself- perhaps some class days use it while other class days are tech-free. This might give us more control, thus freedom, over and with technology as instructors.

  3. I too longed for Queen B to grace the stage and shake up the joint. But alas..

    Technology in the classroom is all about balance. I’ve noticed that setting a policy about technology being used for note taking or referencing information seems to be pretty effective. Tech definitely has its place and can be helpful in engaging with the content. I do agree that social interaction is pretty sparse in the class that I teach and classes that I’m in. Paired and group activities seem to be good ways to add interaction.

  4. Good afternoon Selva,

    I think your eccentric professor and I would get along!! I like his style! LOL! The problem with “having an adult conversation….” is we are talking about some undergraduate students who aren’t quite ready to adult yet. It would be great if they could all just follow along with the power points, but, they honestly don’t because they get bored and want to multitask.


    Cheers, Lehi

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