Technology in the Classroom- Use of Laptops, Notebooks & Smartphones

The issue of whether students should be allowed to use their laptops, smartphones, notebook computers, etc. while class is going on has been a hot topic for many professors for a long time now. This is a topic for which there is no one perfect solution, as use of these devices can make total sense for some courses but not for others. While more and more professors seem to be finding ways to integrate the use of these devices into their classes in a way that is acceptable to both them and to the students themselves, it still remains a challenge.

David Gooblar recently published an article in his Pedagogy Unbound blog in which he cites a method used by two professors at the University of British Columbia. At the start of the semester, they have the students themselves collaborate on a usage policy that everyone in the class will be expected to follow throughout the term. This approach has the advantage of making the students be part of the solution to the problem, thus increasing the probability of their buying into whatever policies are decided upon. (The solution that seems to be least-successful is the one in which the professor dictates the terms of usage to the students. That seems to light the fire of student ingenuity as they then try to find ways around whatever you’ve dictated.)

In a lecture class of roughly 70 students, I prefer a more hybrid solution. I would address this issue on the first day of class. A colleague of mine who is a psychology professor had polled her students about what they found to be the top five most annoying classroom behaviors exhibited by fellow students during class. Number one on their list was “side conversations”, closely followed by “laptop and cell phone use”. For each point on the list, I asked my students to articulate why they thought that item was on the list. What made that behavior particularly annoying?

They determined that, in the case of laptops and cell phones, it was the distraction factor, I then gave them a few minutes to discuss amongst themselves possible solutions. They spoke up and in the end agreed to try to minimize disruptive use of technology.

I went on to tell them that they would have plenty of opportunities to use both laptops and smartphones during class time, as there were times that I would expect them to conduct in-class research or to participate in online polls, take notes, etc. But I also told them that there would be times when it would not only be inappropriate but unnecessary to be on their devices and that, at those times, I would require that they be put to sleep or turned off.

I am convinced that this kind of open conversation on the first day was the reason why  the use of technological devices never became a problem in that class, despite its size. It also helped that I asked them to use their devices at minimum in every second class, even if only for a few minutes. This seemed to diffuse some of the pent up need to power up a screen and allowed them to focus better for the remainder of the class.


Pedagogy Now! Teaching Teachers to Teach

Attached is a PDF of the 2012 SPE presentation by Janie, Suz and Angela. This is intended to be helpful in jumpstarting ideas surrounding the topics. It is, of course, missing our fabulous presenter skills! Please note that movies are inactive and not all the links translated as live in this PDF, however there should be enough info to point you in the right direction for further research.

Using Facebook beyond the Classroom

Your students use it and they will expect that you do too. It seems like a no brainer to have a department or area Facebook site, but there are many different ways that you can approach social media. Sometimes I feel like I am doing so much prep to get my course online, that adding a Facebook page is just a step too far. Here’s a tip:
Have your students set it up!
I have found that when I put it in their hands to create a page, they take ownership, they post about subjects related to class that interests them and find ways to collaborate. I then post news or updates on their page, but don’t have to administer it. Of course, it’s good to check in regularly to make sure that the conversation is conducive to learning. Once class is over, they might continue with the page. A class that did this last year, began creating crit groups beyond the scope of the class and kept their learning dialog going.
Make sure you check on your school’s policy regarding Facebook or other social media before you jump.
Here’s a link to our area FB page set up by my colleague Brian Steele, which we both administer and invite all our students to join:
RCTC Photography

Creating and Using Technical Movies

My classroom experience requires me to teach a lot of technique, especially software technique that can suck away from time in the classroom devoted to discussing the images themselves. I have found creating technical movies to be an invaluable resource for students. It definitely takes quite a bit of prep time, but is well worth it if you have the resources and patience. I have access to IShowU HD software to create movies, but there are other, simpler applications you can use as well. I typically upload to Vimeo and embed the links on my online classroom. Of course, you could as easily use YouTube. Find out what resources your institution has to assist you. It’s likely that your IT department is eager to help out and provide you whatever access you need to create a more interactive classroom. You can then use your own movies as a resource for students in and beyond the classroom.
• Keep them short – break techniques into sections that you can easily refer to;

• Search out already created movies you might find on YouTube or tutorials like;

• Collaborate with students or other faculty to create technique videos.

Of course you can also make movies for any topic, not just technique.

check out an example here: