Week 12: insert interesting title

I don’t know if Google is making up stupider. I doubt it really. I feel like we are just now openly doing what we covertly did before. Did we ever really deeply read every academic article we came across? Or just skim it for relevant information and move on? I think the latter, now we just don’t lie to ourselves about it. Google just makes it easier to do what we were already doing, and harder to mask it.

The articles about a shorter attention span are interesting, especially concerning the genre of the novel. I think that constantly consuming small amounts of information has conditioned our brain to expect that; thus the not being able to read a single “longish” article or chapter without our brains wandering. If we can condition our brain to ingest short bits of information quickly we can condition it back; if we want to. That really makes me wonder, however, which is more likely. Will we spend the time engaging in “longish” works to recondition our brains to focus for longer? Or will the genre of the novel, and long form journalism start to disappear in favor of new genres that more closely sync up with our decreased attention spans?

Now, what I’m most honestly interested in is people’s opinions about laptops in the classrooms. I design a few activities where I have everyone on their laptops actively researching something. But other than that I ask them to put their laptops away during class (with the exception of the students who use them according to their disability statements. Why? I’ve been a student, still am, and let’s look through a list of things I’ve seen students doing on their laptops during class: Facebook, Pinterest, twitter, instagram, reddit, solitaire, WoW, spider solitare, chess, addictinggames.com, shopping, photoshop, math homework (not in math class), chem homework (not in chem class), checking the weather, watching a baseball game, watching surfing movies, watching rock climbing movies, Mircrosoft paint (you know where you make a bunch of circles and fill the circles in with a different colors), message boards, espn.com, checking email, writing email… and I’m sure there’s more but I think this list will suffice. They pretty much do everything that isn’t paying attention. Then they ask questions that the teachers already covered, probably just two minutes before. Does closing the laptops make students pay attention? No, they can doodle or daydream or whatever. Does it help? I think so.

4 Replies to “Week 12: insert interesting title”

  1. Hi, so I think closing the laptop might help, but then you would have to say “phones off” as well, otherwise no difference, you can do the same things with your phone, under the table if needed… Perhaps the better question is, why would students do those activities instead of being active in class? If they ask questions that have been already addressed, I would not answer them again, that way hopefully they will be paying attention next time, otherwise the cycle would continue

  2. Thank you for the post. I agree with all of what you said. However, if you think about students not paying attention and being involved in other activities from a different perspective, it could be that they are not motivated or they don’t find the course materials interesting. Hence, as teachers, we might have to find ways to get all of the students engaged and motivated.

  3. limiting students (unless documented need) to handwriting notes when possible at least limits their access to the specific distraction of their choosing. If all they can do is mindlessly doodle at least their attention isnt totally captured by watching last nights football game.

  4. Thanks for your post! I think you bring up a really interesting question. In the classes that I have taught (primarily classes for first-year students), I let students use their laptops and sometimes they were distracted by things like Facebook or doing homework for another class. But a lot of times, we would be using laptops for different activities, such as researching a topic or group work. On the other hand, sometimes I would have guest speakers come to my class and I would ask students to put away their computers for that part of the class. So I would say it really depends on the class and the activities in the class. For me, I think it is important to have open and transparent discussions with students about the course expectations and guidelines about the use of laptops (whether it is used or not). Maybe the instructor and students can together outline guidelines about the use of laptops in that class.

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