Feb 21, 2010

Don't bring your laptop to class! How ludicrous.

Thanks to a friend, Cliff, I was directed to a post regarding a professor that bathed a laptop in liquid nitrogen and the smashed the thing as a warning to his students *NOT* to bring their laptops to his class.  Really!?  Here is the video of the "professor's" warning:

The actual article that Cliff pointed me to is here: Dr. Z Reflects

My response:

How insecure about one's own teaching methods and materials does one have to be such that they ban a tool which would enable their students to get all the possible knowledge they have access to?  Just because I use a laptop during a lecture does not mean I am Facebooking, Tweeting, or checking email.  I am taking notes, tying information in class to information found online.  And, you know what? Maybe I am Tweeting what I am learning (though I dislike twitter, so I wouldn't personally be using that "tool").  Let's ban pens.  We should ban pencils. Ban paper, too.  Let's use rocks and slate. Oh wait, that is also technology. Well, crap, let us simply bask in the glory of the professor's diatribes.

To me, we face the same types of issues in the K-12 world as well.  Students today, whether in High School or in college, have access to tools that *can* allow them to enrich and enhance the lessons and information they get in the classroom.  But, over and over again, rather than try to figure out how to use these tools, instructors and institutions throw up walls and DEMAND that students set these tools aside.  There is nothing that frustrates me more than "rule by intimidation and fear."  Banning the tools that have become a very extension of today's students demonstrates the epitome of fear and intimidation.

We must, as educators and administrators, reach students in the arenas in which they live and play.  When I was in 9th grade, I had a Commodore 64 with a dot matrix printer.  During the school year, my English teacher (we actually called the class "English" in those days (GASP!)) went from being totally against my using those tools (it was not a typewriter, somehow I was cheating by using a computer, etc) to understanding that the tool had nothing to do with the original thoughts I was putting on paper.  Now, in her defense, she had an issue with the 9-pin typesetting - it was blocky, ugly, and hard to read.  That was rectified with a 24-pin printer. Ah, the good ol' days.

How many professors, teachers and administrators use their own computers each and every day in order to prepare their lessons, report grades, communicate with colleagues, make notes, etc?  Today's students (not all of them, I am well aware) are much more adept at sharing their brain's processing power between multiple tasks and multiple stimuli - how could they not?  They live in that environment every single day (computers, television, gaming, texting, etc).  When they get to class, we expect them to put all of that aside.  Sometimes, the reason is because the instructor is so deathly afraid the student will not be paying attention to what s/he is saying.  Want to know how the students are using those tools in the classroom?  Ask them.  Really.  One might be surprised.

Should there be anarchy and lawlessness about the tools?  Of course not.  Set rules.  But, as with all rules, educate the students as to the appropriate use of those tools.  If a student should break the rules of use?  Discipline that one student - privately. 

While destroying a laptop may be somewhat entertaining, the reason behind the destruction is far from it.  If one is so afraid that his/her students are "playing" during lectures, then perhaps it is time for that instructor to evaluate his/her own material and/or delivery style.  Someone once said something akin to, "The thing we fear most is that which see in ourselves."

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