Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Shall I call a doctor?

On a dark and rainy afternoon I was teaching one of my favorite subjects to a group consisting of 5 students listening intently, another 10 or so trying hard to stay awake, and another dozen with their mobile phones hidden under their desks, thinking I can't see them text. One day I'm going to stream the view from the front to some video site...

Anyway, sitting in the back row was a student I'll call Fred for no other reason than I don't have any Freds this year. Fred was playing with his mobile phone openly. I then watched as he picked up his heavy scarf, wrapped it around his eyes and the phone, and started jerking his head erratically. 

I realized that he was playing the little 3D bee game that comes for free on mobile phones. As you bob your head and weave back and forth, your bee avatar collects prizes and avoids monsters. Doesn't that sound like much more fun than listening to me droning on about advanced hamster fur weaving patterns?

I stopped in the middle of a sentence, drew in a breath. "Shall I call a doctor?" Everyone but Fred wakes up and looks around to see what I mean. "Oh, I see, you are just playing a 3D game." Fred dropped the scarf, had the grace to redden, and everyone had a good laugh.

This is the future, fellow proffies: We will stand in front of a sea of students who are physically present but mentally in such an alternative reality that we will get seasick just looking at them.

Is it Gin O'Clock yet?



  1. I tried a new trick this semester with my phone-ies.

    I walked up to them during my lecture and then snapped my fingers till they looked at me.

    "I'm not going to tell you not to use your phone, because God knows I'm sure there's something really burning going on at Twitter, but I do want you to be aware that when you do this during my class you are showing disrespect to me. You are actively telling me that what I have to say doesn't matter, that my role in this class and your education doesn't count, and that you think this class is a joke. And I'm the guy who gives you a grade at the end. So if you're okay with all of that, at least go sit in the back so I'm not reminded of how little you think of me, this class, and this university. Oh, and happy tweeting."

    I've never laid a more effective guilt-trip, and at least 2 of my worst students have put their shit away.

  2. In the old days, like the 1990s and before, students had to work to signal their active disengagement by rustling their newspaper as they turned the page. How far we have come.

  3. I unleash sarcasm. When the offender is bad, I kick hir out of the class and record a zero attendance in my book. I can--and do--drop students after a couple weeks' worth. This may be the future, but it stinks. Lots of good science, too, showing how damaging to learning the fucking phones are--well, computer/internet use generally. Multi-tasking bullshit!

    1. I've had to cut way back on the sarcasm because the snowflakes complain. My chair approves, but the VP that oversees our division (our Evil Overlord) is horrified by any interaction with snowflakes that can be construed as anything other than soothing and supportive, so worried is LD3C about enrollment. I teach in an increasingly dark and toxic place. I'm trying really hard -- and I mean sincerely -- not to elevate my level of drinking from casual to hard-core.

  4. First time I see it, the class gets a general warning ("Remember, no mobile device access allowed....."). Next time, it's simply "Please leave now. Looks like your mobile life is taking precedence over this course. We can discuss the circumstances of your return during office hours". I've only have one student refuse to leave, but a quick button push to Campus Security fixed that. Once the first joker has been ejected, I rarely have a second.

  5. I did have a brief moment of victory yesterday with a student who hadn't paid attention in class. Students were in groups, doing what I considered to be important work. I let them self-sort, which may have been the smartest thing I did all day. Three groups did exactly as directed, enjoyed themselves, took from the activity what I wanted them to. The fourth group tea partied around, did minimal work, and talked together and laughed when I was giving further directions at the end of the class.

    As students were leaving, one student in the misbehaving group stopped to ask me a question I'd already answered amply when her group was ignoring what I was saying. Very level and with a smile on my face, I said, "I covered that already."

    "When?" she said.

    "At the end of the class, not more than five minutes ago."

    "Well," she said, smiling, "I didn't hear it."

    I said, "Perhaps you can ask one of your groupmates. I'm sure they all heard. See you Monday!"

    I walked out the door, smiling. To her credit, she laughed. I was pleasant and set a boundary and I think she finally got how annoyed I've been all semester long with the little group that never shuts the tea party up.

    In the hallway, I heard her asking another student from the group.

    This semester can't be over soon enough. For the most part, my students are okay, but the new atmosphere at LD3C that really hobbles many of us in the classroom is exhausting.


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