Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Nobby From North Dakota On The Tech Tip.

Motherfucka,
I hadsta break
out the landline!
My dream of encasing my classroom in a Faraday cage may soon be realized:

"Now Guy Eymin Petot Tourtollet, 46, scientific director of the French pulp and paper research institute Centre Technique du Papier, has invented a snowflake-patterned [ha!] wallpaper that blocks Wi-Fi signals, while still allowing FM radio and emergency frequencies to pass through."

Click this and/or this.

And for all of those commenters ready to chime in with, "well if your classes were more interesting, then your students wouldn't be on Facebook" please note that the product is being pitched to movie theaters.

If the focused efforts of the entertainment industry can't keep people off their cell phones, I'm not too optimistic about my chances.

31 comments:

  1. Maybe it's me, but I've never really gotten why I should care if my students are on Facebook or text messaging. As long as they aren't disturbing other students who are TRYING to pay attention, I don't really give a crap.

    The "respect" angle doesn't really do it for me either. There's demanding respect and then there's petty, insecure, arbitrary displays of power. I'm not saying outlawing cell phones qualifies, I'm just saying not all rules on what students can or can't do in class are justifiable by appeal to "showing respect." My students are told not to disrupt class and not to distract fellow students. Beyond that, they're adults, and if they feel the need to leave, read something else, or text message someone, well, it's not MY life to run, is it? Maybe the kid has a class she's on the edge with and NEEDS to study for that, but is hoping that enough of the lecture will sink in around the edges that she gets SOME benefit from my class. Maybe he's got a genuine damned emergency situation he's monitoring when he's constantly checking his phone. Rare, I know, for either case to be true, but - again - NOT MY LIFE. They give me peace and quiet to teach and I stay out of their affairs.

    "I will not care more about my students' education than they do," saith the Prophet (as it were). They flunk, they flunk. Honestly, once they realize some (read: much) of the test material comes from lecture as opposed to the readings, most of them wise up. Besides, as someone who retains information best when doodling on something (and studies show there are lots of us), who the hell am I to assume I know what works best for each student? Kid, if you can ace my exams while Facebooking through every class, more power to ya.

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    1. I do not like it when students text because I prefer that people not be extremely rude to my face. Moreover, since my classes are almost entirely discussion-based, I prefer that my students not be rude to each other. In addition, because my classes are discussion-based, each person is expected to contribute. Without exception, every single time I have cold-called on a student who is texting, they have not known what was going on and needed me to repeat the question. And finally, I care about doing my job well; part of my job is creating an environment in which learning can occur efficiently. Asking students to understand and respect -- yes, I know that's hopelessly old fashioned and hegemonic of me, to use that word -- the rather unique and special environment of the classroom is part of my job.

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    2. I applaud Professor Chiltepin and will plagiarize from CrayonEater.

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    3. While I think Chiltepin says it well, I also think there's more to it. Allowing students to text, be on Facebook, or engage in other distractions such as those old standbys of sleeping or reading newspapers, even if they don't make noise, does too distract others.

      One reason for this is that the flickering of even very small screens distracts the eye, in a way reminiscent of hypnosis. This is why all of us in this modern age have been embarrassed while trying to talk to someone we really wanted to talk to, while at the same time having our eye distracted away from them, by a flickering screen.

      There’s even more to it, though. Not telling students to stop texting and turn off those laptops and tablets fuels an unhealthy environment for learning. It sends a message that what we do here really isn't so important, so students need not pay attention.

      Why does this matter? You might have observed that about 10-20% of students are fully engaged. They will learn no matter what you do. Another 10-20% are fully disengaged. They won't learn, no matter what you do. The students most affected by their classroom environment, though, are the 60-80% of fence sitters in between. When they see rampant texting, Facebooking, and web surfing and no attempt by the instructor to stop it, they get the message that it’s OK.

      Not in my classes, it’s not! A cynic might call this vanity or insecurity, but I like to think of it as doing my best to be an effective teacher. It also wouldn’t do to have a parent wander in and see where their tuition is really going, and me by craven, lazy, or thoughtless inaction going along with it.

      (There, one serious reply, without any mention of stapling anything to anything or other violence. I knew I could still do that. Some important caveats are that I have tenure, lots of seniority having served as department chair, and have a research program that brings in NASA funding and involves students, one of whom is the daughter of the current chair. I can therefore run my physics classes in straight lecture mode, and get away with lots, short of cracking a whip.)

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    4. Frod, you're right about the screens being distracting to other students and setting a tone that this classroom doesn't really matter. I've seen that while doing classroom observations of other faculty and also, during a recent sabbatical, while being a student again at two other colleges (an experience I highly recommend).

      What I hadn't considered is that the screen itself naturally draws the eye. Besides being correct, that's a humane way to look at it, and a point I'll use the next time I explain my policy to a class.

      Maintaining control of a classroom isn't petty; it's professional and necessary.

      There, a serious reply, though you know I do adore you for your power stapling and tactical flatulence.

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    5. Well, I can certainly see how a discussion-based class would be more than usually harmed by students engaged in texting, Facebooking, etc. I also agree that it's not alright to allow students to be openly rude; what I am unpersuaded of, as yet, is that this is rude simpliciter, rather than rude only given certain stipulations on the part of the professor, which I have not made. I'm open to persuasion on this point, but as of now I remain unconvinced.

      The distraction posed by flickering screens is a matter I frankly had not considered. I'll have to think on this, and do research.

      As for "sending a message,", I deny categorically that I'm "sending a message" that learning is "not important" by "allowing" the texting etc. if only because I am not "allowing" it in the sense of ignoring it - I tell students on the first day that they are free to text and what have you, so long as they don't bother anyone else. I also tell them that doing so is probably not smart if they would like to do well in the class. Prof. Chiltepin mentions that these students aren't able to follow what's going on - that is generally my experience as well. It's not news. It's just that I don't really care. If they want to fail while texting - LET THEM.

      I appreciate the advice, Proffie Galore, but I control my classroom just fine. I've never had a problem yet. Those who are interested participate, while those who are not, don't. Maybe I'm a jerk - I'm open to that possibility - but as much as I would LIKE for every one of my students to be engaged, interested, and successful, I'm not interested in paternalistic approaches. I'm not a parent and have no desire to be one. Them as wants to learn, I'll be happy to facilitate the matter. (Sorry - I've been watching a lot of "Deadwood" lately) The rest can get bent. Maybe that makes me a terrible teacher. In all honesty, I am willing to entertain arguments to that effect.

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    6. @Wylodmayer: I double dog-dare you to invite some parents to your classes, to see the crap you let your students pull, because you "don't care."

      Indeed, I TRIPLE dog-dare you!!! (OOO!)

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    7. @Proffie: Well, you can always shoot them with your pistol. Just take care that you're not in an airplane!

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    8. Frod, that's an interesting dare. Would the parents blame the professor for letting students surf the web or would the blame the students for not behaving. More and more, I'm scared to find out the answer.

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    9. BB, that's an easy one. Blame the professor. Why not? They blame the teachers in K-12. What makes us any different?

      I had two texting right in front of me yesterday, which was also my first day back in the classroom after being out for a kidney stone. I didn't say anything because I was trying to stay "up" and on-task, but it really did burn my chrome.

      I would do a Faraday cage in a nanosecond.

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    10. I don't know if it distracts other students, but it distracts me when I'm lecturing or demonstrating.

      I have strict policies, and points are deducted. Student have come to take this seriously, and I have very few cellphone/facebook disruptions. There are sometimes special circumstances, and I use common sense and courtesy to deal with these.

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    11. In cases where I've ignored or not noticed the back row, for example, I've had students ask if I could be more diligent about 'policing' the texting because they get distracted by their peers' texting or their own temptation to text when they think they can. I get distracted by it, too, if I notice someone avidly texting. The blinking light on a phone (or just the fact that someone is hunched over closing hirself off to others) says, "I'm not paying attention to you right now."

      I judge whether something is rude or not based on whether I'd do that behavior to someone else without thinking I'm rude. Would I stop to text someone in mid-conversation with another person? No, I wouldn't, without asking to be excused for that behavior. Would I text in a meeting with colleagues. Nope (although I have colleagues who do text during meetings). So students doing that in class, in my opinion, IS rude because they're interrupting the process of learning.

      I think students need boundaries set for them because they're still developing and learning. One of the boundaries I set is with texting. If someone says they're expecting an important phone call or text, that's fine (just clear it with me first); they learn that they need to be accountable for their behavior. If not, then I expect them to set aside their phone for the duration of the class.

      Do I freak out if someone is texting in class? No. But I do point out to them that I've been distracted by their behavior and that others around have been, as well.

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    12. So many people keep saying that fellow students texting et al distracted them when they were in classes that I'm starting to think maybe I'm underestimating the potential for distraction because (a) no one was texting when I was an undergrad and (b) I never gave two shits what any of my fellow students were doing unless it was noisy. Perhaps I'll have to rethink this, but I still maintain that it's a jump to get from "students texting" to "students disrupting the process of learning," so long as we're talking about someone's learning other than their own.

      As for setting boundaries, I pass. They're adults. Young adults, to be sure, but adults. As far as I'm concerned, boundary-setting is over. This is the time in their life when the learn self-governance... and the penalties for failing to develop it.

      However, in deference to the collective wisdom of the CM commentariat, I will start asking more students, perhaps one-on-one, whether they find it distracting when fellow students are texting or surfing the web. If so, I'll change my policies. That much, at least, you've convinced me is necessary.

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    13. Oh no they're not adults! Adults are as adults do. You're supposed to be the adult here. Be one!

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    14. I am an adult - I'm just not a mommy or a daddy to the little shits. There's a difference.

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    15. It might also bear noting that I don't think I'm there to teach them how to be good students; I think learning to be good students is on them. That may be an idiosyncratic view, I realize. I think I am there to present material and aid in understanding it, but that's it. Again, I realize perhaps I'm weird.

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    16. @CC: Then I TRIPLE dog-dare you too, to invite some parents to one of your classes, and let them see what you allow.

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    17. @Wylodmayer: Well, I think that abandoning in loco parentis was a big mistake. Most undergraduates so clearly do not deserve the privilege of being treated as adults. Just look at what they do with it!

      You might think that they're entitled to be treated as adults only because they're over 18, which in the eyes of the law makes them adults. I'll point out that they can't rent a car until they're 25.

      And I am very certainly not a mommy or daddy to the little shits. Many of the little shits' problems are because their mommy and daddy didn't do their jobs as their mommy or daddy, and have dumped the detritus on me. I very much resent that, since dealing with it really shouldn't be part of my job. Without it, though, they will learn nothing, which is a complete waste of my time. I trust you've heard it said that if they're not learning, you're not really teaching?

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    18. @Frod: Heh - you may be right about the wasted privileges of adulthood. And I get what you're saying, I do. I don't want you to think that I'm just blowing off your point of view. I've been thinking about it. But I just don't know if I buy into "if they're not learning, you're not really teaching." I might accept something like "if the good ones aren't learning, you aren't teaching." THAT seems reasonable, but in my admittedly somewhat limited experience, there's no percentage in judging one's teaching by how much the uninvolved and uninterested students learn. I include those who would rather text or surf the web during class in that category. As for wasting my time, I count myself lucky if a small handful of students actually learn anything. Beyond that, everything else is gravy.

      But you've given me a lot to think about. I'll keep it in mind in future semesters. Who knows? You may see me on your side of this debate in years or even months yet to come. Thanks, Frod.

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  2. I just mark them absent. They were warned in the syllabus on the first day. 3 "absences" today alone, after several warnings.

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  3. My dream is to pull off the schtick of one of my undergrad history Proffies at Dragass University:

    The Proffie: Striking man - 6'7 inches, 165 lb, ice blue eye, eye patch on the other. Too tall for his clothes, slightly short sleeves and pants.

    Day 1- Straight lecture (no notes, a single watch-check halfway through, nails the final statement as the class bell rings.

    Day 2- He goes through the roster "Mr. Adams." Adams raises his hand, gets an 8-second stare from the ice blue eye. Eight seconds is an ETERNITY. On to "Ms. Baxter." Same deal. And so on through the roster.

    Day 3- Lecturing: "and in 1865, MR. ADAMS, at the Battle of Charleston... (Adams, transfixed, gets the ice-blue stare with a personal little mini-lecture for about a minute)... and of course in 1866, MS. BAXTER...(Baxter then gets the stare and the mini lecture.)..."

    We sat there, many of us with our mouths open, hypnotized, nailed to our seats.

    I'd like to see any of my current students text during THAT. Of course, I could NEVER pull off the eye patch, but the stare, yeah, that I could do.

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    1. What about the name memorization? That's always the hard part for me.

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    2. Ah, but you don't have to memorize all the names: just a few.

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  4. Has anyone tried a phone/computer zone? I hate policing the texters-this semester when I told a young man to turn off his phone he told me "Fuck you, Fuck your class." and thankfully left. But it makes me weary. So I wonder if allowing texting/laptops in the back row only? So the lights/screens should be behind people and less distracting.

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    1. You should be allowed to cancel that kid's registration for the class. If someone acted that way in a fine restaurant or hotel, that person would be refused service and told to leave, and security called if they won't leave voluntarily. We should have the same rights: they don't pay us enough to take crap like this.

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    2. You would think that I should be able to do that. Or that when he had to talk to the administrator that s/he would kick him out. My dean told the other admin to "tell this student if he does it again, then he will be removed from class." So, sadly I have no power to kick anyone out. I am actually waiting until he has had the college santioned number of absences, then I can drop him. That is why I wondered about a different approach altogether, I don't want to get shot over texting.

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  5. Ah. I have a tech zone in the FRONT, where everyone (and I) can see them, and they behave BEAUTIFULLY. In the front, they use the technology appropriately; in the back they are actually more distracting, because they nudge and whisper and giggle. And in a dark-ish room, flickering light BEHIND YOU can be more disconcerting that flickering light in front of you.

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    1. I used to think that it didn't matter, but I've since run into some studies that shows that it bothers the hell out of the students when other students are texting or surfing. It really gets on their nerves. I can't really tell what they're doing, because I'm at the front of the class.

      So now I tell students that laptops are okay for taking notes, but that there are numerous studies that texting and surfing really bother other students, and they shouldn't do it. This seems to take care of the problem.

      I may think about moving the textile up to the front of the class though: good idea

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    2. I used to think that it didn't matter, but I've since run into some studies that shows that it bothers the hell out of the students when other students are texting or surfing. It really gets on their nerves. I can't really tell what they're doing, because I'm at the front of the class.

      So now I tell students that laptops are okay for taking notes, but that there are numerous studies that texting and surfing really bother other students, and they shouldn't do it. This seems to take care of the problem.

      I may think about moving the textile up to the front of the class though: good idea

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