Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Accuser versus The Accused

After spending the summer writing 4 or 5 tweets every day (which become status updates in Facebook), I've been thinking about blogging versus twitter.

As you know from previous posts, students generally don't like twitter. But they do like blogging. Students are accused of having short attention spans, of sloppy writing as a result of texting, and of lacking original thought since they get everything from wikipedia and the internet. Yet they like blogging and don't like to tweet or write status updates.

I personally enjoy the "quick update" aspect of twitter and I find it hard to block out the concentrated time to blog.

Do we have this backwards? Is it the "over 30's" with the short attention spans?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer Road Trip

As an academic, I get the summer off. Last summer, we drove from Washington DC to Portland OR over 7 weeks. This summer, we're headed to Seattle WA to drive back to Washington DC. Feel free to follow along here. I'll be back and blogging when the semester resumes.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Is an Online Exam Harder?

Last Fall, I offered my undergraduate students a choice: the could take the exam on paper OR the could take it online. The questions would be identical. The only difference would be the "medium". I was surprised to discover that more than 50% of students opted for paper. I tried the experiment again this semester -- with the same result.

This experience left me to wonder: Why would a so-called millennial student choose paper over a computer?

Below are my theories based on casual conversations with students and my observations during the exams:
  • Students like to hold the exam in their hands to gauge the length of the test and to have indicators of space to determine the length of individual answers.
  • Students like to flip through their exam to check their answers. Some students flip through 3 or 4 times before handing in the exam. While they can do this on the computer, it somehow doesn't "feel" the same to them.
  • Students don't like the countdown timer ticking away the minutes. Even with a clock in the room where they take the paper exam, they don't feel as intimidated as they do looking at a digital clock telling them how much time is left.
  • Students don't trust the technology. My guess is that this is the biggest barrier. They are afraid that they system will "crash" and they will lose their work and have to start over.
I wonder if this will change with the coming generations? Is it similar to my desire to hold a book in my hand and my reluctance move to an e-reader?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The choice is clear for me: laptop for notes only, Facebook can wait.

It is hard to believe, but the debate over computers in the classroom continues to rage. Starting with the Fall 07 semester, I've given an extra credit assignment asking students to write a short paper on the topic. The question they answer is "Should computers be banned?" Not surprisingly, a strong majority say "no". But 28% say "yes"! Let's look at their arguments:
"I know that as a student I should probably be for the use of wireless laptops in the classroom, but I know what really goes on during class." (AY)

"In my opinion, the classroom is a time for students to engage with each other. After all, isn’t the basis of an academic classroom to share, evaluate, and challenge each other’s ideas?" (MH)

"As a student...I see it all the time – students are focused on their laptops more than engaging themselves in the classroom discussion. Personally, I feel cheated out of my academic experience...{when} students would rather check their newsfeed than listen to what their classmates have to say." (MH)

"This is not high school anymore. Students come to class for their own benefits and should be able to decide how best to make use of their time" (MV)

"Turning off Internet access in the classroom will not magically transform an easily distracted or bored student into an active participant. There are many ways a student can distract themselves from a lecture in an Internet-free classroom, like doodling, passing notes or daydreaming. Does that mean we ban notebook paper next?" (AM)

"I feel that if the student is paying for their education, have their own laptop, and wish to surf the internet during their class than it is their right to do so." (J)

"By restricting access professors are serving as babysitters instead of instructors." (AM)

"I...find it to be distracting, whether I am personally distracted by own computer and the opportunity to play solitaire, or if it is from another student watching an episode of their favorite show." (AH)

"....students focus better when they do not have the “world” at their fingertips." (P)

"I approach every class with the same materials: a notebook and a pen." (Y)

"If the internet were not available to students they could focus better on the lecture. Although they might be busy doodling or sleeping, there is a greater chance of the student paying attention to the teacher if they don’t have computers distracting them." (J)
What do you think? Should computers be banned?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Does the Internet Make Us Dumb?

Last semester, I added a "debate" to the discussion about user-generated content. During class, we explored two provocative authors:
  • Doris Lessing, Winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature, says that the "inanities" of the internet has created a culture where people read nothing and know nothing of the world. (Read the entire speech)

  • Andrew Keen, Author of "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy", says that expertise is being replaced by rampant amateurism; opinion is mistaken for knowledge; and credentials, degrees, and years of experience mean virtually nothing. (Read this article for a taste of Keen or watch a hilarious interview with Steve Colbert)
Students divide into teams. One team argues that "The Internet IS Making us Dumb" and the other argues that "The Internet IS NOT Making Us Dumb". As you can imagine, the "IS NOT" point of view is easier to argue -- but I've been surprised by the thoughtful, well-supported, and passionate arguments to support the premise that the Internet IS making us dumb.

Maybe that statement alone proves the point?

What do you think? Is the Internet making us dumb?