Laptops in the class: are they really helpful?

I have recently attended a lecture on ME 4006 as a GTA where the instructor asked the students to put their laptops aside or in tablet mode. This drew my attention and made me think if this was the right thing to do.

There are different styles or methods for lecturing a class. Some faculty member use writing on the board or on a piece of paper that is shown by a projector. On the other hand, some others prefer presenting slides and lecturing over them. The first method keeps the students busy in the class unless the notes are recorded and posted. It forces the students taking notes in the class. In this case, students may use their laptops in tablet mode and write on it. Here, it seems like laptops are very useful to them. But the disadvantage of this method is that it is hard to fathom the lectures materials while taking notes. Many students struggle at this. However, the second method has the advantage in terms of paying attention to the lectures as they are not required to take notes. Some people like to open the lectures on their laptops and take essential notes on it. But not all the students are attentive like this. Many of them get sidetracked by the distracting features by the laptops such as gaming, social networking, chatting and checking emails. The problems become severe when they watch or do something that hampers other students’ attention or the class environment. May be this was the reason why the instructor did not allow the students to use their laptops except in tablet mode or may be the instructor wanted them to be very attentive to the class or may be at least not to disturb others by any chance.

To make laptops useful in the class, faculties need to make their class technology interactive. They need to know how to embed learning materials in technologies to make it engaging for the students growing with technologies.

Whether rewards or punishment works in learning

I liked the video “what motivates us”. It showed monetary rewards worked for mechanistic works. Behavioral skills can be improved by external motivation in terms of rewards and punishment. Students are also motivated by grades, which works as an extrinsic motivation. If the learning approach is to mastery about behavioral skills, then rewards and punishment will work. However, if the learning requires critical thinking and conceptual growth, then punishment and reward system may not results good learning. In that case, some sort of self-empowerment and challenges would be a good choice. Self-empowerment can be the autonomy of deciding course policy, preferred exam methods, and flexible deadlines for assignments.  I think the instructors would find better engagement if they change the learning approach. The learning approach needs to be what the students want to learn instead of what the teachers want to teach in a subject matter.

Effective methods of a presentation

As a part of my fellowship requirement, I have some teaching requirements. Some of them are attending skills lectures, technical lectures, GTA training, delivering one technical lecture and teaching a lab class. The topic of the lecture was about uncertainty analysis, accuracy, precision, resolution, improving the air conditioner test set up and optimization of noise and coefficient of performance of an air conditioner. For lab session, I was required to give a short demonstration about the lab at the beginning of the lab. The lab requires not to spoon feed to the students. Because, the students need to act like professional engineers and address the critical issues of the lab on their own. So, it was my task to work as a guide or coach and to figure out what information or hints can be revealed to the students so that they can have enough knowledge to think about the problems independently. For the technical lecture, I modified and created some slides. To create the slide, I followed the rule that the title of the slide would be the assertion and the body of the slide would be the evidence. I also made my slides with much visual and less text because it is most likely that the students would remember the pictures in the slide. My overall slides can be divided into three main parts such as beginning, body and conclusion. The beginning part can be divided into three sections such as title, mapping and motivation. The title slide introduces the topic, the mapping slide provides the map of the lectures and motivation slide justifies the importance of the topic. I used some real-life examples in my motivation slide. The body part contains the background, results and analysis. The background reviews or provides the knowledge required to understands the topic. Results and analysis slides are the scope for detail technical information methodically. Finally, the conclusion slide summarizes the topic from overall perspectives with no new information. I think this kind of organization in slide design makes the presentation more effective to the audience.