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Laptops in the (university) classroom - Page 3

post #81 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by Kickaha
Sure, as I said, in some subjects just typing will do you fine. I've never run across one in my umpteen years of college, but I'm sure they exist. Somewhere.

Seriously, I can't really think of a single class, looking back, where just typing would have gotten me where I wanted to be. *shrug*

Math: equations
Physics: equations, graphs
CS: flowcharts, class diagrams
English: literary subject relation diagrams
History: timelines, maps
Psychology: abstract graphs/charts
and so on...

Just a followup, I talked to someone in the psychology dept about this today and she said, "Of course the kind of notes people take for most psych courses could be done on a computer. That's like saying you can't take history notes on a computer." It gave me a good laugh.
Quote:
Originally posted by hardeeharhar
Posting notes online doesn't help people learn the material.

While what you mean here is unclear, the fact is that in most classes, supplimentary materials posted online are not only useful, they are crucial to the class. If they weren't, whole departments of libraries and university IT departments that have existed for decades wouldn't exist. You are just wrong here. End of story.
post #82 of 112
Some of this discussion really feels like a culture shock to me. I'm surprised higher education is so different the world around.

To start with, here, the prof does not 'decide' on your grade. The only things he has to go on are your essays, coursework and exam scripts, which are presented anonymously. He marks those, returns a stack of marked essays, and the admin office totals up for each student. There's no way of him knowing who did which script, and no way he can take attendance into account, or anything like that.

Now, look at it this way:

All students are being marked on merit. They're being marked on how well they can perform the tasks required of them. There is no way a professor can show bias, such as disliking laptops in the classroom so penalising students for them. Students can work in the way that suits them best -- whether that is attending lectures, camping out in the library, just downloading the notes... it's up to them. The exams are crunch time. We then find out whose strategies worked best.

I would greatly resent being baby-sat now I'm at university. If some professor tried to make me attend lectures and take notes because he thought that's the way I should be learning, I would get quite angry. I do attend lectures, and usually I do take notes, but why should he judge me on my method? The anonymous marking (which also involves the marks being moderated by two more tutors) puts everyone on equal footing, competing squarely on merit.


Sorry to side-track this discussion slightly.


Amorya
post #83 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by Amorya
Some of this discussion really feels like a culture shock to me. I'm surprised higher education is so different the world around.

To start with, here, the prof does not 'decide' on your grade. The only things he has to go on are your essays, coursework and exam scripts, which are presented anonymously. He marks those, returns a stack of marked essays, and the admin office totals up for each student. There's no way of him knowing who did which script, and no way he can take attendance into account, or anything like that.

Wow, that sounds quite involved, with things being anonymous, presumably using some code, and then a third party doing the tallying. I guess that's more fair, it just sounds very... cumbersome. But here in the US, I doubt attendance is taken in many classes. None of my professor friends take attendance that I'm aware of. My guess is that only a few % of classes have attendance requirements. Having said that, I don't think it's unreasonable to count attendance as part of a grade. I actually do take attendance in my upper-level undergrad classes, but not as part of a grade, just to get to know their names. In larger lectures it's just not feasible, and obviously I know the grad students.

I also find that the students who don't come to class typically fail or drop.

As far as anonymous grades, it's probably a good idea, but it's not like teachers sit there and work out all kinds of schemes to change grades based on who they like or dislike. I sometimes have opinions about students I like or dislike, but it's not like I care enough about that to change their grade from what the syllabus says.
Quote:
Now, look at it this way:

All students are being marked on merit. They're being marked on how well they can perform the tasks required of them. There is no way a professor can show bias, such as disliking laptops in the classroom so penalising students for them. Students can work in the way that suits them best -- whether that is attending lectures, camping out in the library, just downloading the notes... it's up to them. The exams are crunch time. We then find out whose strategies worked best.

I can see that point, and I attended college in England for a year and had a similar experience. But it's also extremely results-oriented, which may not be such a good thing. Ideally there's some emphasis on the process of discussing things and participating in stuff in class rather than just taking an exam, IMO.

Quote:
Sorry to side-track this discussion slightly.

Nope, it's interesting.
post #84 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by giant

While what you mean here is unclear, the fact is that in most classes, supplimentary materials posted online are not only useful, they are crucial to the class. If they weren't, whole departments of libraries and university IT departments that have existed for decades wouldn't exist. You are just wrong here. End of story.

Sorry... I don't know what I meant by that either.

My point was that there is no benefit to downloading notes while sitting in the lecture; in fact, such distractions are probably worse for the student who neglected to download the notes and had to choose between standard note taking and pursuing those notes online.
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post #85 of 112
Professors don't put actual "notes" online (I've certainly never seen that), it's typically the stuff that makes up course packets: articles, explanatory material, links to external resources, slides, etc. In addition, many classes use discussion boards and online assignments and assessments.

These days, almost every prof who uses slides of any kind posts them online. Note that the slides I've seen in class are typically not bullet lists and the format varies depending on the subject. Most students who don't use computers print out the slides, bring them to class and take notes on them. Other students, like me, don't waste the paper or the time printing them out and instead bring a laptop. Likewise with any articles or any other supplemental material online, some of which is hosted on school servers and some which isn't.

The fact is that as the material that traditionally made up course packs has moved online, laptops have become a desirable way to access that material in class.
post #86 of 112
I think the point was that there's very little reason to access that material *during* the lecture. Anything I wanted the students to have access to during a lecture, I gave them. On paper. No situation where Student A has a laptop and B doesn't, every one has equal access during the time that it counts... during the lecture.

They could go get the electronic versions *after* class, but I didn't even post them until after the lecture. And they were never the actual content of the lecture, only supplementary material.
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post #87 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by BRussell
Wow, that sounds quite involved, with things being anonymous, presumably using some code, and then a third party doing the tallying. I guess that's more fair, it just sounds very... cumbersome.

The system's pretty slick. Each student has a sheet of stickers with their barcode on. You attach those to the cover sheet. When the prof is done marking, the office just have to scan each bar code and tap in the percentage grade for each one.

But then, this is a country where any education before university is assessed entirely by a central body. I initially thought it was really unfair to have the people marking your work within the same institution!

Quote:
Originally posted by Kickaha
I think the point was that there's very little reason to access that material *during* the lecture. Anything I wanted the students to have access to during a lecture, I gave them. On paper. No situation where Student A has a laptop and B doesn't, every one has equal access during the time that it counts... during the lecture.

They could go get the electronic versions *after* class, but I didn't even post them until after the lecture. And they were never the actual content of the lecture, only supplementary material.

Here, it's fairly standard for the slides to be posted before the lecture. Most people take notes by annotating printed copies of the slides. (I do mean most - I'd estimate about 75% use that method of note-taking, spilling onto additional paper only when the explanations get more involved.)

Amorya
post #88 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by Amorya
Here, it's fairly standard for the slides to be posted before the lecture. Most people take notes by annotating printed copies of the slides. (I do mean most - I'd estimate about 75% use that method of note-taking, spilling onto additional paper only when the explanations get more involved.)

That's how it is here, too. It's unusual for slides to be posted after the lecture rather than before. I think most profs realize that not everyone wants printed copies of slides and other class materials, so by putting them online before class it leaves it up the student to bring what they want to class. It seems somewhat wasteful to make print copies for every student unless there's a compelling reason to, but that would depend on teaching style and format of the class. I'm guessing Kickaha's teaching style is somewhat unique and I bet it helps his students quite a bit, particularly if it's similar to how he's described taking notes. More often than not, though, it seems like a good chunk of printed class material, handouts or course packets, barely gets used if used at all.
post #89 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by CosmoNut
Paper doesn't crash, get corrupted, or require electricity.

Nor is it organized, searchable, compact, or in sync with audio recordings.
post #90 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by ticks
Nor is it organized, searchable, compact, or in sync with audio recordings.

Of course it's searchable, make your own index when reviewing the notes...
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post #91 of 112
i thought the big growth area at universities was podcasts, so you could load to ipod and keep them with you. for me the most effective method was using a good digital recorder, download to computer and have written notes emphasis. this way i can make a reference to the notes from the lecture recorded. but if it's graphs. formulas etc. then written is best. when i see laptops it's for between classes so you don't have to go back to your crib to get other things done, or do research
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post #92 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by hardeeharhar
Of course it's searchable, make your own index when reviewing the notes...

Not to say that you're wrong, but I think that he means by specific phrases and such. When you index something, you might leave out a word that you might want to search for later. Automated computer indexing of a digital file (like Spotlight/Quicksilver/Butler/etc) will be more comprehensive. But whether any of this is needed or useful is always an exercise in judgement on the part of the student.
post #93 of 112
The other issue here is that it would be a beneficial exercise for the student to transcribe the notes onto their computer... so many people already do this while studying...
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post #94 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by Kickaha
I think the point was that there's very little reason to access that material *during* the lecture. Anything I wanted the students to have access to during a lecture, I gave them. On paper. No situation where Student A has a laptop and B doesn't, every one has equal access during the time that it counts... during the lecture.

They could go get the electronic versions *after* class, but I didn't even post them until after the lecture. And they were never the actual content of the lecture, only supplementary material.

Supplementary material is fine to post after class, but if you're talking about something like a PowerPoint presentation or a lecture outline it's better to post it online first. Like giant said, most students will just print out the slides on paper and annotate them with the additional information that is part of the lecture.

An aside on PowerPoint:
I don't see how 'bulleted lists' are somehow a bad thing. Sure, you can take something like a bulleted list and make each bullet a separate slide with some sort of complementary graphic or relevant diagram (if there is a relevant diagram it probably deserves a separate slide anyways), but the major point of slides is to be an outline of what the lecture is about. You are right that the entire lecture shouldn't be in the slides, but a general idea of what was discussed should be.

The PowerPoint slides should supplement the lecture with the current topic and maybe a couple of major points about it. It makes is easier on the lecturer in that it frees them up to talk about the material rather than being limited to standing in front of the chalk board writing the entire lecture.

Any diagrams that would have been drawn on the board can be put into the slides. This allows the professor (or grad student) to actually talk about the diagram and point out parts of it rather than spend a bunch of time trying to draw it on the chalkboard.

None of this is *very* new stuff. Slides could be make on transparencies and displayed with an overhead projector, but using the computer just makes the task easier. It also makes the task easier on the students. I took a economics class a long time back where the professor used handwritten transparencies and an overhead projector. The problem was that most of the slides were just packed with handwritten text in outline form. He went through the slides so fast that I was not able to write down all of the information in, let alone digest it. Now, had he been using PowerPoint slides with the file posted online. I could have printed off those slides and just annotated them with stuff he didn't have on them. It might not have made the slides better, but I would have had an easier time digesting the information without having to worry about writing at 1 page per 1 minute.

Also, you can use a blackboard, overhead projector, *OR* PowerPoint to just present a bulleted list. I've seen it done in all those mediums. It seems foolish to disregard PowerPoint as a tool just because you think that the conventional wisdom around usage is wrong. You claimed that you created an awesome PowerPoint presentation that 'broke all the rules.' If that's so, couldn't you do the same for your classes? There's nothing forcing you to use bulleted lists in PowerPoint. It's like decrying hammers because most people use the head of hammer, but you think it's easier to use the side.

Quote:
Originally posted by Kickaha
I've done the laptop route. Pencil and paper still trumps it for learning a complex subject in the first place, hands down. My dream would be to have a tablet for taking freeform notes, with delayed handwriting recognition... oh wait, I had that in my Newton. It just wasn't quite big enough.

That's fine, but what we're hearing from people like hardeehar is that "I can learn better without a laptop, so that must be true of everyone." Just as the anti-laptop crowd in this discussion are shooting down anyone that claims to learn better with a laptop, they then go on to use "I do better without a laptop" as proof that it's better for everyone. I don't see how "can I use a laptop in class" is supposed to be some huge concession that's akin hardcore muslims allowing their women to run around without being 'covered up.'

Quote:
Originally posted by trumptman
Because outside of the university, you have to deal with information in whatever means it is given to you and not just in the manner with which you are most comfortable. Additionally, most of the time you have to use tools or processes that may not always line up with what you are most comfortable. It could be something as simple as using Windows instead of a Mac. It could be something like taking notes with pen instead of a laptop. The point of being educated is to be adaptable and able to process information in a multitude of ways.

On that same note of 'preparing students for the outside world,' you could claim that dealing with professors that don't really know what they are doing is 'part of being prepared for the outside world.' Because there are plenty of places where people don't know their job, but command the people under them to pick up for the slack they are themselves creating. I think this is a rather bogus argument. On the same token I could say that the University should cheat students out of their money and defraud them with bogus courses that don't mean anything... because there are fraudsters and con-men in the real word.

I somehow think that I should demand more for my money though. If I am paying to receive education I should be allowed to at least receive that education, laptop issue aside. As others have stated, it's not like I should be using university as my proving-ground for pen and paper skills. One should think that K-12 is enough preparation for that.

I don't think anyone here is claiming that people can't learn without a laptop. The claim is that by banning laptops you are artificially limiting students' choices because of some bizarre 'father knows best' idea. I don't know of any university that requires its professors to take classes on how to actually teach. Having a PhD in a field of science does *NOT* mean that you automatically know how to pass on that knowledge to others in an efficient manner. I don't think that anyone can wave around a PhD and be able to claim that it means they know how to teach people about their field. It just means they know enough about their field to earn a PhD... nothing more.

A little aside:
I've run across many professors that couldn't teach to save their lives in ANY medium. One of them was bad enough that the university gave him a teaching assistant that was supposed to 'keep him in line.' (Because he apparently made the semester before us too easy) During one of the classes that the TA was teaching, he stepped in because he wanted to highlight a point. Everything that came out of his mouth made absolutely no sense... and I had covered this material before. (I had taken it in HS, but the university didn't give me credit for it) The TA could clearly convey ideas, but the minute the professor started talking his ideas were so disorganized that it was hard to discern the point he was trying get across.
post #95 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by hardeeharhar
The other issue here is that it would be a beneficial exercise for the student to transcribe the notes onto their computer... so many people already do this while studying...

The point is that you are trying to force the student to do something. You are trying to say that "I don't like laptops, so you have to learn in this way because I decree that it shall be so. I have a PhD, so I know what I'm talking about." It's akin to telling students that they can only study from their notes and they will automatically fail if they use supplemental material. My point is that you are trying to exert too much control on the learning process. There is a balance to be made between you trying to get the students to learn and the students doing things in their own way. You might think that banning laptops still preserves this balance, but I disagree.
post #96 of 112
Banning laptops reduces distractions of other students. That is all.
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post #97 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by pyr3
I don't think anyone here is claiming that people can't learn without a laptop. The claim is that by banning laptops you are artificially limiting students' choices because of some bizarre 'father knows best' idea. I don't know of any university that requires its professors to take classes on how to actually teach. Having a PhD in a field of science does *NOT* mean that you automatically know how to pass on that knowledge to others in an efficient manner. I don't think that anyone can wave around a PhD and be able to claim that it means they know how to teach people about their field. It just means they know enough about their field to earn a PhD... nothing more.

That's absolutely true. Very few profs get any training in teaching at all, and your teaching skills get very little attention when you're first on the job market - primarily because most people haven't taught much if at all. The year I got my degree and was on the job market, I taught a course because I thought it might help and it was some extra money. My advisors thought I was crazy, because they said that teaching doesn't matter.

On the other hand: 1) This isn't 3rd grade, these are adult students. Obviously if you are a truly crummy teacher, like your example, that's a big problem. But you shouldn't need to be as much of a master educator as you probably need to be with young kids. And I think there is a very strong correlation between knowing your stuff well and being able to teach it well. I sincerely doubt that your professor who didn't make any sense was a good researcher.

2) Teaching might be what students see the most, but it isn't the only or even necessarily the most important job of university professors. At a community college, teaching is going to be their primary job, but at a big research institution, the emphasis is strongly on research over teaching. At most doctoral institutions, promotion/retention decisions are based probably 5% on teaching and 90% on research. Only if you're a truly terrible teacher, like your example, would it matter. People might complain about that, and I know there are some really crummy teachers, but I think our system works pretty well.

As an aside, the Bush administration is trying to bring No Child Left Behind to Higher Ed. Peek around this page a bit.
post #98 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by pyr3
[B]Supplementary material is fine to post after class, but if you're talking about something like a PowerPoint presentation or a lecture outline it's better to post it online first. Like giant said, most students will just print out the slides on paper and annotate them with the additional information that is part of the lecture.

Sign of a lazy prof. Sorry, it's true.

Quote:
An aside on PowerPoint:
I don't see how 'bulleted lists' are somehow a bad thing. Sure, you can take something like a bulleted list and make each bullet a separate slide with some sort of complementary graphic or relevant diagram (if there is a relevant diagram it probably deserves a separate slide anyways), but the major point of slides is to be an outline of what the lecture is about. You are right that the entire lecture shouldn't be in the slides, but a general idea of what was discussed should be.

Why? Why use slides at all? Any prof worth their pay should be able to give a lecture off the top of their head, talking only, and get the point across clearly.

PowerPoint presentations are a crutch for the *lecturer*. Presentations that are just text outlines are useless IMO - might as well just flesh out a few more bits, and not even bother giving a lecture.

Worse, it's lousy prose. If you're going to give that much text, try *writing* it, instead of using a silly format like bullet lists.

Quote:
The PowerPoint slides should supplement the lecture with the current topic and maybe a couple of major points about it. It makes is easier on the lecturer in that it frees them up to talk about the material rather than being limited to standing in front of the chalk board writing the entire lecture.

Any diagrams that would have been drawn on the board can be put into the slides. This allows the professor (or grad student) to actually talk about the diagram and point out parts of it rather than spend a bunch of time trying to draw it on the chalkboard.

Quite true - and that's how they should be used - as illustrations, perhaps with a single quote on it that is expounded on for several minutes by the lecturer, etc.

But there should be nothing on the slides (short of complex diagrams, or animations... which the prof should distill into something digestible) that the student cannot reproduce in under 10 seconds, and isn't part of the natural flow of the talk. In other words, the slides should be strictly optional - if the power goes out, the prof should be able to give the same lecture, and the students should be able to get just as much out of it. Relying on canned presentations is just a sign of a lazy prof, and frankly, I feel like I've been cheated when I take a class like that. I mean my god, I can read slides without spending huge sums of money to listen to a prof read them off the screen.

Quote:
None of this is *very* new stuff. Slides could be make on transparencies and displayed with an overhead projector, but using the computer just makes the task easier. It also makes the task easier on the students. I took a economics class a long time back where the professor used handwritten transparencies and an overhead projector. The problem was that most of the slides were just packed with handwritten text in outline form. He went through the slides so fast that I was not able to write down all of the information in, let alone digest it.

BINGO. Lazy prof. All he did was read the material he could have handed you in print form, saving you all time. The fact he used transparencies is irrelevant.

Quote:
Now, had he been using PowerPoint slides with the file posted online. I could have printed off those slides and just annotated them with stuff he didn't have on them. It might not have made the slides better, but I would have had an easier time digesting the information without having to worry about writing at 1 page per 1 minute.

NO tool, NO technology is going to make a bad prof better. I also fail to see how this is any different than him handing out lab packs.

Just using PowerPoint as a bullet list maker is lazy, lazy, lazy. There are better ways to get that material across than being limited by PP, if the prof insists on using the outline form for pre-canned notes. Like, say, an RTF file of the outline? You can expand on sections, your notes become a part of the outline, instead of scribbles on the side, and the printout can actually be *more* interactive, yet follow the flow of the talk. Shockers.

Quote:
Also, you can use a blackboard, overhead projector, *OR* PowerPoint to just present a bulleted list. I've seen it done in all those mediums. It seems foolish to disregard PowerPoint as a tool just because you think that the conventional wisdom around usage is wrong. You claimed that you created an awesome PowerPoint presentation that 'broke all the rules.' If that's so, couldn't you do the same for your classes? There's nothing forcing you to use bulleted lists in PowerPoint. It's like decrying hammers because most people use the head of hammer, but you think it's easier to use the side.

Lazy profs are lazy profs, and they breed lazy students who don't learn much of anything. It's a feedback loop. A lazy prof puts everything into PowerPoint, meaning that they really don't need to be there, and students expect not to have to put any effort into it - so now the students expect PowerPoint bullet lists to have everything pre-digested for them and handed to them. Learning doesn't work that way, no matter what medium you choose to use to disseminate the information.

Quote:
That's fine, but what we're hearing from people like hardeehar is that "I can learn better without a laptop, so that must be true of everyone." Just as the anti-laptop crowd in this discussion are shooting down anyone that claims to learn better with a laptop, they then go on to use "I do better without a laptop" as proof that it's better for everyone. I don't see how "can I use a laptop in class" is supposed to be some huge concession that's akin hardcore muslims allowing their women to run around without being 'covered up.'

Talk to hardeehar if you have an issue with his viewpoint, I've been very clear in stating that my issue with laptops in the classroom is with people who abuse the privilege (and it *IS* a privilege, not a right) to distract others. When the student starts distracting others in the class *regardless of how they are doing it*, they need to stop. Period. To paraphrase a famous quote: "My right to determine my own learning style in the classroom stops at the point of distracting others." That's all. As long as they aren't distracting others, I really don't care what they do.

However, I'm not going to pander to lazy students, because I'm not a lazy teacher. I work hard to craft accessible and clear lectures, I expect them to meet me halfway. I've printed out, or made accessible my slides for students, beforehand, and the feedback has been nearly universal that they got more out of the lecture than the slides. Many students have been really shocked at how thin the slides are, since they expected to be able to just download them and have that replace the lecture. Nope. I'd be doing them a great disservice if I was replacing myself with slides - they wouldn't be getting the learning experience they're putting out good money for. On the flipside, I make sure that I'm accessible for students who missed a lecture.

Besides, the trend now is that it forces students *to use* a laptop. I can't tell you how many times I've had a prof just sleepwalk through a lecture, commenting every so often "Well, I'll just skip this, it's in the slides online." What about the student that isn't as comfortable with a laptop, or can't afford one? (And yes, there are many who fall into those two categories.) Suddenly they're at a disadvantage for *no good reason* other than a lazy prof and lazy fellow students.

Pushing PowerPoint, or any other shiny new technology, does NOTHING to improve the learning experience for students. Good teachers will use their best tool - their brain. So will good students. The more layers of crud you put between those two, the slower and more diluted the learning will be.
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post #99 of 112
Kickaha:

Thanks for the reply. I'm not trying to advocate professors being lazy and I have to agree with you on most of your points. I did not realize that you were really advocating a lecture... lecture. I thought that you were of the mind that chalkboards and overhead projectors were better than PowerPoint for some reason.

The thing that I like about PowerPoint presentations or outlines is that it gives you an idea of where the professor plans to go with their lecture; otherwise, it's hard to organize your notes as you are taking them. There have been many times where the professor mentions something at some point, goes off on a tangent and then comes back to the original point. You can't add notes to the original point because the notes on the tangent are in the way now. (Although a laptop would allow you to just add new lines under the original point) I guess you could say that it's lazy on my part, or lack of organization on the professor's part in his/her lecture. But that, to me, it the real boon to posting stuff like that for the students. Another boon is that it's easier for me to learn the material if I'm paying more attention to what the professor is lecturing about than just taking notes. With the PowerPoint slides you have most of the major points summarized, the professor just expands on them with additional information, testimonials, insights that his research has given him, etc. Personally, I come away from the lecture feeling like I learned something more so when I don't have to concentrate as hard on note-taking vs. digestion of the information. Maybe you think that makes me a lazy student, but I feel that I learn better that way.

As to the your laptop viewpoint, I agree that if it's being disruptive to the class it shouldn't be there. But I don't think that an all-out ban is a good thing. I feel like that is just a reactionary measure, rather than being more proactive.

I've recently been living in Toronto, and there was a major shooting incident at a major shopping area right after Christmas. The Canadian politicians seemed to think that the solution to the problem is to ban all hand guns. But this is a measure that is a 'punish the innocent' maneuver. Washington D.C. has a ban on hand guns, but that doesn't stop gun violence there. It just puts unnecessary limitations on the people that are not criminals and are responsible with their guns.

I feel like a ban on laptops is too broad of a measure to use to weed out the few bad apples. If someone is a distraction in class (like talking loud to someone next to them or something), can you not kick them out of the classroom/lecture hall? Why couldn't this same method be applied to students that are being distracting with their laptops?
post #100 of 112
I just wanted to get a comment in on instant messaging, but do mind that I have no experience of higher American education.

Is instant messaging really such a bad tool? I understand that it really shouldn't be used for conversating casually with other people, but by using rendezvous or bonjour you create a network of people who can discuss the lecture in class (I'd say that's desirable, perhaps you don't.) and, if they misheard something or simply didn't hear what the professor said, they could ask someone who did to perhaps get a better picture.

Is that not a benefit?
post #101 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by Zandros
I just wanted to get a comment in on instant messaging, but do mind that I have no experience of higher American education.

Is instant messaging really such a bad tool? I understand that it really shouldn't be used for conversating casually with other people, but by using rendezvous or bonjour you create a network of people who can discuss the lecture in class (I'd say that's desirable, perhaps you don't.) and, if they misheard something or simply didn't hear what the professor said, they could ask someone who did to perhaps get a better picture.

Is that not a benefit?

That is ridiculous.

You are in a lecture hall, and you have a question... your first instinct is to IM someone a question?

No! It is to fucking raise your hand and ask. What has happened to verbal communication?
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post #102 of 112
I recently returned to school after a ten year absence and I feel having a laptop in class has been beneficial for several reasons.

Last week my accounting professor mentioned Nucor Steel as an example of a company that had an innovative bonus structure which made them the most efficient steel company in the country. Some of the students had specific questions that the professor wasn't able to answer. I was able to access our school's online article database and find several magazine articles on the company.

In my statistics class, the teacher tends to go off on tangents which have nothing to do with the material in the class (this seems to happen a lot in other classes as well). Having a laptop enables me to get other work done, or to read the material the teacher won't have time to cover later because he or she wasted too much time telling stories.

The Graphing utility would have been great to have in my calculus class last semester. Unfortunately, I didn't have access to it at the time as I've been using a Windoze machine until my MacBook arrives.

I have never found laptops to be a distraction when others are using them, but I would feel awkard using one in a small class where the professor actually engages the students (most students don't use them in these situations).

The only times I have been distracted were when other students were either text messaging or playing games on their cell phones. Do you ban these as well?
post #103 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by iroach

The only times I have been distracted were when other students were either text messaging or playing games on their cell phones. Do you ban these as well?

D'uh.
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post #104 of 112
Kickaha, while I certainly agree with the core ideas you've expressed, your "bad prof" diatribe is based on generalizations that really make me wonder when the last time you spent time in a class not directly related to your own field. What you've described sounds like a lazy set of assumptions and, honestly, nothing like what I've experienced.

The fact is that there are a myriad of reasons why slides are useful depending on the subject and it's not all bullet lists or lazy profs. I've seen very little of that. What I've seen more of is a range of material in a range of formats integrated into each class.

Also, when I think of the handful of bad profs I've had, I don't think any of them used slides. In fact, at least one of them shared your viewpoint toward powerpoint and thought she had the whole teaching thing figured out (and damn she was wrong). The bad profs I've run into pretty solidly fall into two categories: 1) know the subject, but never bothered to even think about how to teach or 2) have really strong opinions about teaching styles and have a set of methods that they put too much faith in.

In fact, I'd argue that the far more extensive crutches that profs turn to are things like presentations and group projects, assigning them at some of the most inappropriate times. I can think of at least one graduate program related to my field at a chicago-area school that has been turned into an empty shell of busywork through heavy dependency on trendy teaching formats.

On the other hand, I'm also amazed with some of the other comments here. IM in the classroom? You have to be joking. Likewise with cellphones. They are totally unacceptable.

And hardeeharhar, the simple fact is that while you may believe otherwise, your opinions are simply opinions that, when injected with the "It's my classroom and I'll do what I want" attitude, are very likely to be detrimental.

The simple fact is that I'm having a hard time reconciling the kinds of things being said here (slides always = lazy prof, kids playing unreal in class) with what I've seen myself over the past few years taking graduate and undergraduate classes at a major university. Perhaps I've been lucky. Maybe it only happens in low-level undergrad classes. I don't know. Granted, in recent years my choice of classes has also always weighed heavy on student evaluations of the profs, so maybe I've been successful in largely avoiding crap ones.
post #105 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by hardeeharhar
That is ridiculous.

You are in a lecture hall, and you have a question... your first instinct is to IM someone a question?

No! It is to fucking raise your hand and ask. What has happened to verbal communication?

Like I said, I have no experience of lectures, and certainly not American, but upon reading this conversation I got the impression that any disturbance to the professor at all was a most grievous insult.

Now, is all communication during the lecture supposed to be professor <--> pupil, and none at all between pupils? If so, why?
post #106 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by Zandros


Now, is all communication during the lecture supposed to be professor <--> pupil, and none at all between pupils? If so, why?

Not necessarily, but generally yes. The professor is there to teach subject material that the students have had little to no experience with. Class discussions are generally reserved for non-science courses due to the fact that they are much more subjective and student opinions are important. However, most lectures are a distillation of knowledge/understanding and are thus from prof to student.
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post #107 of 112
giant,

I have taken a hard tack in this thread because to be honest students are not and should not be responsible for the environment of a classroom. In reality, I will probably wait until I see that the computers are distractions and then subsequently ask the students who are distracting not to bring them/all students not to bring them. There are very specific reasons why one would need a computer in a class room, and taking notes is not one of them -- regardless of how much belly aching I have heard here, we all learn how to write on paper, and if someone does learn better by staring at a computer screen, they can transcribe the notes later (which would benefit them anyway).

The class room is a participatory oligarchy, and the only real power rests with the professor.
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post #108 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by giant
Kickaha, while I certainly agree with the core ideas you've expressed, your "bad prof" diatribe is based on generalizations that really make me wonder when the last time you spent time in a class not directly related to your own field. What you've described sounds like a lazy set of assumptions and, honestly, nothing like what I've experienced.

You're exceedingly lucky, or as you point out below, diligent in avoiding the bad profs. The tools for disseminating information about profs, such as online anonymous feedback lists, are *wonderful*, and I wholeheartedly support them. Students should use their 'voting power' in signing up for classes with good profs, and avoiding the bad ones. hardeehar, while you are technically correct, profs are answerable to the student body eventually, or should be. Too many crappy profs have wielded absolute power in the classroom to the detriment of the students.

Of course, then you run into the same problems you do with any democratic feedback system, where the average students swamp the opinion polls, but it's better than nothing.

Quote:
The fact is that there are a myriad of reasons why slides are useful depending on the subject and it's not all bullet lists or lazy profs. I've seen very little of that. What I've seen more of is a range of material in a range of formats integrated into each class.

Again, good for you. I never said that PowerPoint presentations *in general* are bad, I said that *bad profs* rely on them too much *to the exclusion of everything else*. And what they rely on most within PP is bullet lists, because they require the least work. Unfortunately, they also get across the least real semantic content.

Quote:
Also, when I think of the handful of bad profs I've had, I don't think any of them used slides. In fact, at least one of them shared your viewpoint toward powerpoint and thought she had the whole teaching thing figured out (and damn she was wrong).

Always a danger. A good tool will never turn a bad prof into a good one, but a bad prof can turn a good tool into a poor one. As I've stated, I *use* presentations (Keynote, actually), but I use them as an accessory to the lecture, not a replacement for it.

Quote:
The bad profs I've run into pretty solidly fall into two categories: 1) know the subject, but never bothered to even think about how to teach or 2) have really strong opinions about teaching styles and have a set of methods that they put too much faith in.

Yup, I've had both too, and they both bite. I have put a lot of thought and work into how to teach, and am open to new teaching styles or tools... but the one indicator that has remained constant across all the profs I've had, lectures I've attended, and seminars I've gone to is: a presentation that consists mostly of bullet lists punctuated with crazily complex and unreadable diagrams is boring, unclear, and the sign of a poor speaker who didn't put enough thought into how best to convey the information.

To be honest, I model my talks after Jobs' keynotes in a lot of ways, with a hefty dose of Tufte thrown in. Mostly speech, with simple things on the screen to provide a touchstone for the current discussion. Minimalist is best in my experience.

Quote:
In fact, I'd argue that the far more extensive crutches that profs turn to are things like presentations and group projects, assigning them at some of the most inappropriate times. I can think of at least one graduate program related to my field at a chicago-area school that has been turned into an empty shell of busywork through heavy dependency on trendy teaching formats.

Oh *god* yes. I've had my share of those too. Like I said, no tool or teaching fad will make a bad prof into a good one.

I don't think we're too far apart on opinion here, to be honest.
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post #109 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by pyr3
Kickaha:

Thanks for the reply. I'm not trying to advocate professors being lazy and I have to agree with you on most of your points. I did not realize that you were really advocating a lecture... lecture. I thought that you were of the mind that chalkboards and overhead projectors were better than PowerPoint for some reason.

Oh heck no. The tool isn't nearly as important as the professor's teaching ability. The problem with PP, IMO, is that it gives a *veneer* of competence to an otherwise unremarkable professor. :/[/quote]

Quote:
The thing that I like about PowerPoint presentations or outlines is that it gives you an idea of where the professor plans to go with their lecture; otherwise, it's hard to organize your notes as you are taking them. There have been many times where the professor mentions something at some point, goes off on a tangent and then comes back to the original point. You can't add notes to the original point because the notes on the tangent are in the way now. (Although a laptop would allow you to just add new lines under the original point) I guess you could say that it's lazy on my part, or lack of organization on the professor's part in his/her lecture. But that, to me, it the real boon to posting stuff like that for the students.

Hmm. I always just drew an arrow back to the original material if I wanted to add something. IMO notes shouldn't be necessarily clean, crisp, and polished. They're called 'notes' for a reason. They're just to jog your memory, to recall important bits and pieces. They're great for jotting down a date, sketching a trend graph, or otherwise supplementing the learning process, but if a student is trying to write down every word, or worse, if the prof *expects* them to, they're likely missing the most important part of the lecturing environment: the concepts. Too many students (and profs, yet another feedback loop) concentrate on the minutia to the detriment of the overall topic. Learn the abstractions, and the overarching concepts, and you can always look up the details in a reference text later. Profs who expected students to just memorize and regurgitate annoyed the piss outta me. Still do. What good is rote memorization when reference texts are so available? Concentrate on the *difficult* parts of learning, and leave the tedious data in the dusty tomes until needed.

</rant>

Quote:
Another boon is that it's easier for me to learn the material if I'm paying more attention to what the professor is lecturing about than just taking notes. With the PowerPoint slides you have most of the major points summarized, the professor just expands on them with additional information, testimonials, insights that his research has given him, etc. Personally, I come away from the lecture feeling like I learned something more so when I don't have to concentrate as hard on note-taking vs. digestion of the information. Maybe you think that makes me a lazy student, but I feel that I learn better that way.

For certain teaching styles (which unfortunately seem to be the norm), that's just raw survival. The prof expects you to recall/remember all the details, to the point that you risk missing the *concepts*. That's ass backwards in my book, but apparently is the way most profs still teach. (Yes, I have a very dim view of teachers in general, from grade school on up - I kept expecting them to get better, and they never did.)

Quote:
As to the your laptop viewpoint, I agree that if it's being disruptive to the class it shouldn't be there. But I don't think that an all-out ban is a good thing. I feel like that is just a reactionary measure, rather than being more proactive.

Unfortunately, I have been in classrooms as both teacher and student where a ban would have been better than allowing them in... \ I would much prefer a 'here are the rules, act like adults' situation, but especially in undergrad classes, it seems to rarely work that way. \

Quote:
I've recently been living in Toronto, and there was a major shooting incident at a major shopping area right after Christmas. The Canadian politicians seemed to think that the solution to the problem is to ban all hand guns. But this is a measure that is a 'punish the innocent' maneuver. Washington D.C. has a ban on hand guns, but that doesn't stop gun violence there. It just puts unnecessary limitations on the people that are not criminals and are responsible with their guns.

Totally off-topic, but point made.

Quote:
I feel like a ban on laptops is too broad of a measure to use to weed out the few bad apples. If someone is a distraction in class (like talking loud to someone next to them or something), can you not kick them out of the classroom/lecture hall? Why couldn't this same method be applied to students that are being distracting with their laptops?

There is growing trend in higher academia to sue the prof when things don't go the student's way. Frequently it is the parents who initiate the process. I was warned repeatedly by several profs not to flunk anyone, in fear that I would get sued - turned out I still haven't flunked anyone, because I make sure they have the resources and help to get past that barrier, but the threat is real. I've seen a student (in another class) literally respond to a request to leave with "Make me. You can't. I pay your salary, so I'm going to sit here." Security was called, then the lawyers. Yes, the prof was sued on several grounds... all dropped, but that's the environment that many profs find themselves in. Using technology to fix abuse of technology (such as WiFi blocking) seems to me to be a much better solution than either a ban or a blind eye.
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post #110 of 112
Quote:
Originally posted by cygsid
So I am taking my first formal class in a few years out of college, and having been out of the classroom so long, I am a bit out of touch with today's practices and trends for computer use in the classroom. Can those of you who are either still in college or at least have kept in touch with their alma mater bring the rest of us up to speed on this?
Has it become commonplace to bring one's laptop to the classroom? Is it not frowned upon, or seen as snobbish?
What software do people use for taking notes? I know of OneNote on the PC side, a great app for this type of tasks. Any recommendations on the Mac? I am probably going to start with Hog Bay Notebook since I already use it for pretty much everything else in my life.
Do people still take notes on paper? I know I only use paper for quick brainstorming and drawing diagrams these days... but then again my writing is atrocious (even for me), and atrociously slow too (much faster typer).
Has there been any research into this in the education field? Are paperless classrooms the future?

This topic has gone out of control, but I thought I would add a little insight that I have not seen anyone else mention. I am currently applying to law schools, and I recently had the chance to visit one of them and sit in on a constitutional law class.

There were about 25 students in the class, and about 3 in the class did NOT have laptops with them. Almost all seemed to take notes exclusively with the laptop, along with their conlaw book next to them. I noticed a few actually taking notes by hand, and then at times typing on their computer. I have heard that this is the norm for law school curriculum now.
post #111 of 112
I think it depends on a lot of things. All the time I was at uni (graduated 2 years ago) I saw just one laptop used in class and it wasn't a class I was in - I saw it from the hallway. It was also a snob/nerd who was using it.

This was a Physics/Maths/Comp Sci building. I had a laptop but I wouldn't use it in class.

Most of the people at uni couldn't afford decent laptops and mostly had Dells which were about the size of desktops so hardly portable.

I also found paper to be easier to carry, quicker to setup and far easier to use for drawing complicated diagrams or equations. The only real reason I got a laptop was because I stayed at home and I needed to do presentations.

If the Mac Mini had been available, I would have bought one of them instead - I have one now and take it with me when I stay with relatives. Seriously, they had monitors in the CS lab so I would just have to plug it in. Minis are half the price of the notebooks and have the same performance.

I can't wait to see what the Intel Mini is like:

1.8GHz Intel
1GB Ram
Radeon X1600 128MB
80GB HD

<£500
post #112 of 112
I don't really want to read all the posts in this thread. But i would like to say that when i was in professional school, i took notes with paper and pencil, then transferred them to the computer at home. I ended up with some excellent notes and the more ways you manipulate the data, the easier it is to remember. Our course load was between 33-35 credits per quarter, and we we're all looking for whatever edge we could get. I could write a macro that substituted a blank for keywords and then listed the word in a seperate list. Made a great self test. Not all subjects lend themeselves to this, but where applicable, it made a big difference.

cheers
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