Friday, July 12, 2013

Does This Happen A Lot In Your Classroom?


39 comments:

  1. Yes, especially at the end of class and students have fallen behind in their note taking. They will take a picture and then leave class. I don't know if their camera captures my writing with sufficient resolution or even if they look at the picture at all. They also don't get the experience of wrting the information themselves and thus they remember less of it. However, it is a lot easier on me since I don't have to wait for them to finish writing before I erase the board.

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    1. I don't have the reference handy, but the evidence that I've seen indicates that students _don't_ retain things better by writing them down: the act of transcription isn't in of itself pedagogically useful. Seriously; they've run the studies.

      I wrestle with this all the time in my own science classes. On one hand, having them copy your work doesn't help them understand it, but at the same time, you have to work through it with them to get them to understand it and confront it line by line. Making them do it is orders of magnitude too slow, but if you give them the impression that notes don't need to be taken, they'll sit back and let it wash over them. There's a handful of other tricks you can play, but I find myself going back to traditional lecture over and over again.

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    2. Three Sigma, if you get a chance to post the references, I'd be very interested in reading the studies.

      Perhaps we see a relationship between transcription and retention when the relevant issue is really level of attention? That is: students who take thorough notes do better on tests because they're paying closer attention to the lesson than students who download a PowerPoint or snap pics of the board.

      Another related issue in my classes is vocabulary. Naturally, they don't use the vast computing power in their pockets to look up new words. I'm still floored by their inability to pronounce basic vocabulary when they speak in class, and my hope is that at least if they have to think about how to spell a word while writing it they might retain its meaning a little better. (And I do mean writing, not typing).

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    3. I have to think that study is bullshit. Sorry. I'm trying to be tactful. Kids who TAKE notes are listening. Kids who snap a picture at the end of class could not be fucking bothered.

      Twice last term I had individual students stand up DURING class and walk to the board with their phones extended.

      The first time I stood there dumbfounded.

      The second time I said, and I'm hot using hyperbole, "What the fuck are you thinking?"

      A couple of students gasped, you know, because here in Ohio we don't use that kind of language, but it got the point across better than anything wise I might have thought of.

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    4. They were probably shocked that a proffie actually knew and used that word. The fact that we go to a grocery store and eat food would shock them.

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    5. @Three Sigma: Like Surly Temple, I'd appreciate seeing the original source. That would be interesting. Even just a little flava would be nice.

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    6. @Hiram: "I'm hot using hyperbole." Oh yes.

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    7. Re: Three Sigma's sources, a quick Google gave me a 2012 blog entry from Scientific American that was long on anecdote and short on methods and data: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/literally-psyched/2012/04/30/on-writing-memory-and-forgetting-socrates-and-hemingway-take-on-zeigarnik/.

      I'm with Surly Temple and Bubba: it would be interesting to see a reference to original research. College Misery Journal Club!

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  2. Not often in mine. Not much of what I say is written on the board. The students, I notice, don't write down anything I SAY, they only write what I write, so they typically have little in the way of notes.

    I used to have Power Points but I found my students stopped taking notes entirely and would just look the Power Point if they had a question. Well, my Power Points are entirely figures and problems--the actual lecture is in my head and delivered orally, because I don't believe in reading slides aloud, that's how Power Point killed the Space Shuttle--and without any notes about what I said there is very little in the Power Point.

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    1. I have powerpoints like that, because I teach larger classes and it's much easier to display images clearly using the projector rather than a board (or imager), and because we are strongly encouraged (i.e. have) to to meet various disability accomodations. I post them to the VLE 24 hours before class so that students can print them off and annotate them if they prefer to take notes that way, and I explain repeatedly to students that I expect them to take notes.

      Every year I get evals which complain about how my powerpoints don't have all the information they need to revise, or that they need more words.

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  3. If they can figure out how to take a picture of the concept of the good, more power to 'em.

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  4. I can see cameras being used as a last resort when pressed for time with the students later copying what was on the board into their notes, but it isn't a substitute for actually writing down the information.

    Those who actively push the use of these devices forget that there are other things aside from actual course material that taking notes teach. To have good notes, one has to be quick, clear, and neat. One has to be alert, observant, and attentive in order to make sure all the details have been properly recorded. Surely those are skills and capabilities that will be useful to the students once they graduate.

    For several years, I taught an introductory drafting course. At one time, we were told to cut back on the number of handouts we distributed to the students. Whenever I gave a drawing assignment, I made a transparency, put it on an overhead projector, and had the students make a sketch. They didn't like doing that, of course.

    I told them that once they got into industry, they would have to do that sort of thing. There are some settings where using a camera would be hazardous as, in the presence of combustible gases, a flash could be an ignition source. Sketching would, therefore, be the only option. I don't think any of them believed me.

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  5. I have had it happen, usually with clicker questions (which I do not make available to them after class). I don't like it, it is against my policies, and I always stop class if I notice somebody doing it and remind them of those facts. I tell them that they get copies of the powerpoints, sans clicker questions and practice problems, posted on the class website after lecture. And if they want the practice material, they are welcome to write it down with pencil and paper, which they should be doing anyway, because that is the whole point of it being practice material.

    They don't like it, but tough for them.

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  6. I actually encourage it - in my (humanities) seminars--not lectures, there's often a scramble to copy down whatever's on the board, to the detriment of actually listening to what's being presented. So snapping digital photographs allows us to capture notes, charts, maps, diagrams, whatever, and can keep students engaged in the conversation that's going on right in front of them. We do a fair amount of group-work, as well, where 3-4 students will work on a specific task and present it to the rest of the class. again, when they're furiously writing down/copying what's on the board, they're not actually listening to the presentations.

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    1. This is also my students' complaint: that they are so busy frantically copying down what's on the Power Point that they cannot really listen to the lecture. I don't have too much sympathy for this argument, as 90% of the Power Point, at least, rearranges or restates terms and concepts from their textbook (this is a very basic intro class). This is why I never post my slides to the LMS--I will run the slide show for them in my office by request, but their physical human presence in front of me is the price of access to the Power Point rehash of each chapter. If they can't be bothered with that, they should either read the damn chapter themselves or rely on the kindness of their classmates to share notes.

      But what not everyone seems to grasp is that the Power Point stuff is only (or not even) half of what matters. What really intrigues me are the students who will take the trouble to photograph the Power Point slides and not what gets written on the board, which is really where the interest lies quite a lot of the time. Somehow, if information doesn't meet their eyes through a computer, they don't automatically take it seriously. Those who write out their notes are (anecdotally!) less likely to distinguish between what's on the screen and what gets added to the board below it, and just write it all down.

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  7. Recently, this happened: during a research conference in my office, I urged the student to consult a particular resource, and I even wrote down the author and title on a little yellow sticky note. Instead of taking the sticky note itself, the student took a photo of it. Is this the end of the line for sticky notes?

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    1. I do that, too. And I take photos of papers on the provost's desk when he's not looking. And the little appointment cards my dentist gives me. It's all on my iPhone now. Sticky paper is a dinosaur.

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    2. I have had students take a photo of their textbook on the first day of class rather than write down the title/author/other identifying info. Never mind that all that would already be written in the syllabus...they want to see the purty shiny cover!

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  8. What is hilarious that the person making this up confused "E" (capital E) with "t" (lower case t) in the middle step. Of course, the "=" sign is nonsense but I know what they are attempting to portray, which is an actual calculus calculation.

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    1. Way to stay focused.

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  9. Reminds me of an interaction I had with a Dean-flake once:

    "EMH, why don't you get one of these so you can take a picture of the board for the students who don't feel like taking notes or coming to class and you can email it to them..."

    EMH: #screams#

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  10. I would hit anyone taking a picture of my board for their notes with a sock full of pennies.

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  11. I'm happy for any of my students to record audio, video, or take pictures. I do all the work in my class for them, and I'm happy that they want to get the material down correctly.

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  12. I teach middle school, and my students tend to do it when I put a long homework assignment/details for an upcoming project on the board. Frankly, I'm thrilled when they do-- better than claiming ignorance later.

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    1. This is another good point--it's insurance against the "but it was never announced!!" line that comes from the superflakes.

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  13. It's happened a few times, mostly when I've built up a particularly intricate diagram over the 45 min of class. I'm only 15 years older than they are, but it makes me feel like a relic.

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  14. What amazes me is when they take a picture of the Powerpoint slides that they could more easily download from the course website!

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  15. I draw diagrams illegibly enough that only the students who were following along as I spoke slowly and explained the diagram as I drew it would be able to reproduce the diagram and understand it - otherwise, they take a photo of a bunch of crazy squiggles and the next day, or next week, or next month, they're going to look at their photo and go "what the fuck"? So, I the mouth-breathers in the class take their damn photos, I don't mind letting them learn the hard way that their approach to learning might need to be improved upon.

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  16. I have to say it is not fair to say that lazy students take pictures of the blackboard and good students take notes. I have seen many students who have their notes electronically and take pictures of graphs and photos and embed them in their electronic notes. I have also seen good students who don't even bring a piece of paper to class and get an A at the end. What's wrong with that? People learn differently. I grew up with post-its and highlighters, these kids grew up with iphones and ipads. I don't see any harm in taking pictures. If it helps them learn then they should do it.

    Yes, there are always lazy students who won't look at the picture again. But there is no guarantee that they will look at their notes again either. You can't say the bast way to learn is to copy everything the lecturer says on a piece of paper. Just because taking pictures is a method you haven't used to learn or remember things doesn't mean it doesn't work.

    Taking a picture of the board means they care. I don't know well it works for them but if it does then why not?

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    1. What bothers me more is that if the smart phone is on in class so they can take pictures, then the many alluring distractions of facebook, twitter, etc. etc. are all there too (wifi in lecture theatres is a PAIN), and with the best will in the world they will get distracted. I do feel that increasingly one of the things that makes a university class distinctive is that we sit together in a room focusing on one intellectually challenging thing for 50 minutes, without all the other stuff going on.

      Yes, of course, there are students with disabilities and special needs and learning styles which are positively enhanced by six hundred blaring distractions, but I think that EVERYONE benefits from doing something a bit DIFFERENT, from having a space to collectively engage with ideas. Apart from anything else, it prepares them for life during power cuts ;-)

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    2. I wouldn't mind so much if they only took pictures of the powerpoint slides with diagrams and information on them, but my students never do that because those get uploaded to the LMS a few hours before class. Instead, they only ever take pictures of clicker questions and practice problems, which I do NOT make available to students after class. The entire point of those is to get them to think about the material during class, to promote discussion, and to give me an idea of where they are at that moment, so I can tailor the rest of the lecture accordingly. If they are taking pictures of them for "study" later, what usually happens is that they feel like they already have the question down, so there's no reason to discuss it or put effort in class into actually understanding the concept beyond knowing which choice is the correct answer and then go home and memorize the answers to those specific questions. And then, when a slightly re-arranged version that tests understanding of the concept shows up on an exam, they complain that it isn't exactly the question I asked before and so it isn't fair. Which then shows up on my evals. Also, then those questions are "out there" and the next semester's crop of snowflakes comes in with the answers already memorized and is at a disadvantage when it comes to actual learning.

      This could also be a problem if they wrote it down, but I've found that they don't do that so much and instead will actually talk about it with the students around them and take a few minutes to understand it, since they don't really have the time to write the entire thing down anyway. It works out better for everybody in the end this way.

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    3. I wouldn't mind so much if they only took pictures of the powerpoint slides with diagrams and information on them, but my students never do that because those get uploaded to the LMS a few hours before class. Instead, they only ever take pictures of clicker questions and practice problems, which I do NOT make available to students after class. The entire point of those is to get them to think about the material during class, to promote discussion, and to give me an idea of where they are at that moment, so I can tailor the rest of the lecture accordingly. If they are taking pictures of them for "study" later, what usually happens is that they feel like they already have the question down, so there's no reason to discuss it or put effort in class into actually understanding the concept beyond knowing which choice is the correct answer and then go home and memorize the answers to those specific questions. And then, when a slightly re-arranged version that tests understanding of the concept shows up on an exam, they complain that it isn't exactly the question I asked before and so it isn't fair. Which then shows up on my evals. Also, then those questions are "out there" and the next semester's crop of snowflakes comes in with the answers already memorized and is at a disadvantage when it comes to actual learning.

      This could also be a problem if they wrote it down, but I've found that they don't do that so much and instead will actually talk about it with the students around them and take a few minutes to understand it, since they don't really have the time to write the entire thing down anyway. It works out better for everybody in the end this way.

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  17. I used to not mind, for many of the reasons given by MyStupidAdvisor. Then one of my colleagues posted a note on the door: "No photos may be taken in the lab." She was concerned about cheating and sensitivity about our human skeletal collection.

    So I embraced her rule. It's much easier to have a consistent rule than to waive it occasionally for taking notes from the board.

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  18. I agree that cell phones and wifi access during the class time can be distracting and I do not deny having seen students using Facebook or watching stupid youtube videos during class. I just have this one point. Instead of demeaning cell phones and laptops as our enemies, let's try to use them to our benefit. Cell phones, ipads, laptops and wifi access are tools which can be distracting or can be intelligently used in a lecture to do the opposite and attract the students' attention. Instead of banning them in our classrooms let's try to use them in our teaching efficiently and show the students how they can use their gadgets in a smart way.

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    1. Obviously we all use technology to enhance our work and teaching, so there's no sense in presenting a false dichotomy between those who categorically reject technology and those who unfailingly embrace it. I *still* here consultants and administrators doing this, and it saddens me that those in charge of making educational and institutional policy are so ignorant about what is actually going on in their classrooms.

      What you are suggesting is that simply because students are using cell phones and iPads for their own social and recreational purposes, I should adopt their use in my classroom for pedagogical purposes, and that is not a logical argument (though it is a commonly-made one). By that logic, I should be deploying X-Boxes, Instagram, and Axe Body Spray to make my lessons more "relevant" and "engaging" to the students.

      Luckily for my conscience and sanity, my institution allows me to decide what technology I need and don't need in order to do my job effectively. Most often what I choose to do is to make my classroom a quiet, distraction-free space in which my students and I can spend extended amounts of time in serious and sustained contemplation and discussion of important ideas and texts. I dare say that I consider my classroom a type of sacred space dedicated to intellectual endeavor.

      I know far better than my students what sorts of behavior lead to effective learning in my field. If your approach to teaching is to let the monkeys run the zoo, don't be surprised when you get hit in the face with flying poo.

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  19. All my board-drawing is done electronically, so I post the boards in PDF. The photo would be superfluous, and it diminishes students trying manically to keep up with and reproduce what I'm writing.

    Of course, the diagrams are not self-explanatory, and frequently involve erasing/moving/changing the diagram or its parts, so if you weren't there to begin with, the end-result will not make a lot of sense.

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  20. My opinion about cell phones is well known, and so I don't usually see them in my classroom, but I've visited other classrooms as part of the adjunct assessment for our department, and I've seen it there, along with so much texting and facebooking and other such stupidity that I couldn't believe it. I hate that shit. College cost me a hell of a lot of money and I was damned lucky to get to go, so it annoys the hell out of me to see people treat it with less seriousness than they would a movie in a theater.

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  21. I have a campus-issued iPad. I use it for grading assignments uploaded to the LMS, and for FB. Then I realized that I could take pics of the whiteboard after I'd given the lecture/led the discussion and used the board to take notes on that discussion. No two classes are the same, even if the material is. I like being able to go back through and see what each section focused on. For my lit sections, it helps me remember where we ended up, so that when I draft test questions, I'm sure we taled about something and they have no excuse not to know it.

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