I am a teaching assistant for a professor that travels frequently. This has proven to have both pros and cons; this creates much more work than the average TA, however I have had the opportunity to hop right into teaching at the collegiate level. As I have begun to regularly sub for the professor, there have been challenges along the way. Especially as the students transition from one teaching style to the next, they tend to frequently have a “deer in headlights” look, especially when discussion is expected or questions are posed. Recently, there was such a lack of response when I asked the group as a whole if they understood the material that I literally had to say, “Are we shaking our heads yes or no”? In this course, students are able to bring their laptops and phones to class. Sometimes it seems as though students are much more engaged in what is being displayed on their laptops versus what is taking place in the classroom. The Leave Your Laptops at the Door to My Classroom article really resonated with me. Through my undergraduate career, I rarely brought my laptop to class because of how I knew I would be distracted by it.
I do see the argument that typing notes on laptops can be done much more quickly than taking notes by hand and can also be much more legible for both the student taking them and for others. This also serves as an easy way to consolidate notes, update them, and save them for later. Personally, I am an advocate for taking notes by hand, however I do not think it is my place to “choose” that for students as everyone learns differently. My stance at this point in time is that whatever route is chosen, it is essential that expectations be communicated the first day of class.
The Smarter Than You Think reading by Clive Thompson adds to this conversation by shining light on the fact that we don’t have to rely solely on humans or technology; there can be a healthy combination of both. In fact, the integration of the two is often the most beneficial option. Therefore, maybe allowing students to use their computers and phones to perform certain tasks, but asking them to put them away otherwise could be a way to accomplish this. This article brought up a good point that being aware of how technology affects our daily lives (sometimes inhibiting us) is key. As instructors, we can help students to reflect on this concept and be more mindful about technology being a distraction/how technology is a distraction from a personal standpoint. When I peer reviewed Debjit’s course syllabus in class, his statement about the usage of technology in the classroom impressed me. It was like a friendly forewarning about how technology can serve as both a beneficial tool in the classroom or a distraction. He stressed that it was important for students to be able to recognize the role it played for them personally, putting the responsibility on the students, but still allowing freedom of choice.