Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ignoring the Prof. Sent in By Vog3lfr3i.

I don't really mind them not coming to class. I still get paid. And if someone can learn to apply the Fundamental Theorem of Gerbology on their own, why should they have to sit with everyone else? I know I needed a lot of help with that way back when, but some of them are undoubtedly quite intelligent.

And with the mid-semester break coming up, a few decided to go home a few days early and how can I fault someone who loves his parents so much? Just don't let mommy call me about that test on the material missed.

Don't really mind them texting or being 'absent' in any way that doesn't knock me off my game or make it difficult for others to see or hear the lecture. If the Fundamental Theorem doesn't interest you, I'm not sure how to make you care.

I do try to come up with interesting examples of applications and stress how amazing it is that while an individual gerbil behaves quite randomly an infinite number of gerbils would behave in quite predictable ways.

But I don't get the point of going through all the trouble of coming to class if you are not going to try to pay attention. And if the way you don't pay attention distracts others, then wouldn't it be for the better good if you just stayed home?

Now there's a study with numbers and everything that confirms what many of us have tried to tell them.

Stay home if you don't care to listen. I don't take attendance. Someone told me that you are adults. But if you come to class, don't bring an entertainment system with you.


  1. We watched a video as part of the "Achieving the Dream" program----it was supposed to get us faculty all prepped and revved up to help them achieve their dreams. In fact, this video was a part of that day with the crane lady I wrote about some time ago. Anyway, two professors were showcased in the video. One was clearly the "you should do this" category and one was to show us what NOT to do. The prof in the second category ignored students who were on their phones texting, etc. When they asked him why he did that (ignored them) he answered much as you have here, and the answer rang true then as it does now. But most of my colleagues seemed united in despising the "don't" prof and claiming that they would never simply allow texting.

    We have small classrooms in the community college atmosphere. I imagine the OP teaching in a huge lecture room. How the fuck could you stop them from texting in a huge lecture room?

    For myself, I do ask them to put the phones away if they are being obvious about it. And we all wait while they do it. But with repeat offenders it gets so boring, asking them to put the damn phones away over and over. So I could kick them out, right? But that is a huge drama and I don't like to use it for something as innocuous as quiet texting. What I do instead is tell them please, if they are using this class time to text, however surreptitiously, DO NOT waste either my or their fellow students' time with any questions. I repeat that if they ask me the questions during office hours. I won't explain something again they could not be bothered to listen to the first time.

  2. I don't work in the sciences or social sciences, but isn't 44 students a pretty small sample size?

    As my high school moves toward providing every student with a laptop to be used in class, my colleagues and I have been all but screaming that this is a terrible idea. We're fighting against the current of educational faddism and a head-of-school hell bent on padding her resume with "tech initiatives." A good, comprehensive study that backs up our anecdotal arguments with solid evidence would be very helpful.

    1. If the results are statistically significant, then 44 students is just fine. If the results were not statistically significant, THEN you start questioning if a small sample size affected your results...

    2. The research done (that I've seen) is in your favor, ST. Although these articles are based on college student populations, they may help with building your case:

      Junco, R. 2012. In-class multitasking and academic performance. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(6): 2236-2243.

      Wood, E. et al. 2012. Examining the impact of off-task multi-tasking with technology on real-time classroom learning. Computers & Education, 58(1): 365-374.

    3. "If the results are statistically significant, then 44 students is just fine."

      Two words: False Positive

      (I make no comment on the study in question, but one of the ten commandments of statistical analysis is "Thou shalt not bow down and worship the 5% significance level")

    4. RoaG,

      Five words: sampling variance versus population variance.

      The false positive is unlikely to come from the small sample size of 44, for a between-groups comparison test as used in the paper, if sampling variance tends to follow the usual pattern of being greater than population variance (once you get beyond a handful of sample objects) and declining down to the 'true' population variance as sample size increases and approaches population size.

  3. Surly: There may be some useful info in Cliff Stoll's book, High-Tech Heretic. While it is a dozen years old, the message is still valid.

  4. I'm free so set policy in my classes, so the "entertainment technology" problem is solved: none allowed, no laptops, texting, or anything else. No newspapers or outside reading, either. And I enforce it; I stop the class and embarrass the offender. Repeat offenders are told to drop the class.

    I am talking about freshman-sophomore level classes here. They're not adults, so I don't pretend they are (there's often an attendance requirement, too.) Luckily even at that level we have small sections (40), and naturally mine are even smaller. I make sure to enforce the policy in the first few weeks, so those who can't deal with it can quit early. And everything runs smoothly.

    Incidentally, I don't use "education technology" at that level either. See Edward Tufte, The Cognitive Style of Power Point (Googling this will lead you to a picture with the cover of the 2nd edition, which will make you think of Strelnikov.)

    1. Here, I've googled it for you:

      (Tufte is a very interesting guy.)

  5. I'm an enlightened educator who has learned over the years the value of bargaining with my, ahem, clients, and arriving at a verbal contract that favours them.

    So, I offer my, umh, clients the entire space time continuum to do whatever they want. In exchange, I accept only the square footage of my class, and for only the assigned hours a week that has been given to us to share. A ridiculously lopsided arrangement that they gladly accept.

    So, whenever they are [ fill in the blank with unacceptable behaviour ] , I simply say "Get out". I'm not asking them to stop what they're doing, I'm just removing it from my patch, which they negotiated the rest of the universe for.

    Works for me.

  6. I've given up on being able to keep the little bastards off of their addiction fixes, I mean technology. In fact, I relegate them to the back of the classroom at the beginning of the term. At least that way, they're only distracting each other.

    What bugs the shit out of me is the little shits that insist on talking while I'm talking, especially those that decide to start talking EVERY TIME I TURN MY FUCKING BACK. Those are the ones that get tossed.

    One thing I do every so often to set a precedent for throwing out talkers is to have a couple of former students as plants on the first day of classes. They pose as students trying to add, but they sit there and continue to chit-chat through repeated warnings. Finally, after I've "had enough," I ask them if they're enrolled or if they're trying to add. After they tell me they're "trying to add," I tell them, "For a couple of people that 'need this class,' you aren't showing me that you really do. Leave and don't come back until a future term when you can show me the respect I've earned by shutting you pieholes while mine's open." Works like a charm for the first half of the term. By that point, the problem children are usually gone.

    1. You get that too? Mine start talking the second I turn to the board or start answering another student's question.

      Again, why are you here if you don't want to listen to me?