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.