I should have seen this coming.

26 08 2011

It appears as if the ed tech apocalypse is right around the corner.

So a student comes up to me after class this morning and says something to this effect: “I just wanted you to know that I wasn’t playing with my phone during the discussion. My textbook is on my phone.” Then he shows me his phone and right there is Rebirth of a Nation by Jackson Lears.

Now I’m certain this student actually was referring to the book during the discussion, otherwise he wouldn’t have showed it to me afterwards. But what am I going to do when everybody only has to access their textbooks through their laptops or their phones? How will I know they aren’t on Facebook? What happens if they all have different e-versions of the text? Will I have to read the first sentence of the quote and wait for them to tap it into their search engines before we can discuss it?

I have no answers on this issue, only questions.

PS H/t to the Pietist Schoolman for the graphic. I told you it would come in handy fast.

Update: Coincidentally, UD gets at the heart of the problem here.




11 responses

26 08 2011
Middle Seaman

Why do you care? If a student, i.e. an adult, doesn’t want to listen to you and instead is on Facebook, it is a free choice with consequences. In case there are no consequences you don’t do your job well.

My experience is that in non survey classes, a student that doesn’t listen fails. In survey courses it varies. Survey courses shouldn’t be taught as such. Assign reading material and give assignments and discuss them in class as well as discuss problems students raise.

26 08 2011
Jonathan Rees

Shoot MS,

I’m just one of those crazy teachers who wants my students actually learn something in class. It makes everything else I have to put up with bearable since it means I have not labored in vain.

26 08 2011

“we are the borg. you will be assimilated.”

More seriously, the Instructional Technology experts at Woebegone State are telling us that we’ll all be using iPads or some other tablet for content (instead of textbooks) in the next two years. So this is a loosing battle. The same people who developed and implemented the WiFi Laptop university paradigm for the last ten years are doubling down with IPads, smart phones, etc. IT departments, Publishers and E-Learning experts are pushing this hard. Our students will only be able to get their material on the phone, or a kindle or a tablet, even though Woebegone State had tried to do this with the Laptop and basically failed.

I don’t know what to do about it. I’m hoping that this is another iteration of the future that never comes, like jetpacks, flying cars, nuclear powered cars and the monorail.

“Monorail, the transportation system of the future, always has been and always will be” Bill Radke

27 08 2011
Music for Deckchairs


This gets into the bigger question of digital detox: does everyone need some space in their lives in which they’re not contactable and not multi-tasking? Maybe. But is it our job to be this rehab space for our students? Maybe not so much. Because I don’t think that they are distracted in class for the first time, they can just contact a bigger world than was previously possible in the days of writing “This lecture is so boring” on the desk or passing notes.

Why I think this is a bigger issue, though, is that it’s the exact same behaviour that’s now common in meetings, where busy people manage overwork by wading through emails on their phones while also listening to the presenter. This goes right up to the senior executive level. So, to be realistic for a moment, this is the world in which our students will be working—or it’s the world that we might be helping them to change.

To imagine this, we need an integrated across-the-curriculum approach to digital and social literacy, that’s focused on using all this technology well and for good reason.

By the way, is the biggest fear textbooks on phones, or Facebook? You know, they can have different versions of the print textbook. An e-book is likely to be more consistently the current version.

28 08 2011
Jonathan Rees

So much here…

The difference between falling asleep at your desk and getting on the Internet is that if you close your eyes in the right way you don’t distract others. [I have some experience with this.] Reaching for your phone in a meeting is barbarous behavior. I’ll leave mine in the office often just so that I won’t be tempted, but I never thought of it as a response to overwork before. Seems right to me.

I can make them buy the same version of the printed textbook, but then again that’s not a big problem for me since I no longer have the standard three-pound survey textbook. I’ve seen stuff about how wonderful it is to get the learning done online at home and the teacher is there to help you face-to-face in class, but homework is reading time for students learning history.

Maybe that’s what scares me the most: Switch textbooks to phones and laptops and nobody will read anything anymore. If the younger generation stops reading, I’m afraid we’re all doomed.

29 08 2011

Well, without sounding too much like a fortune cookie here, maybe this is the moment for a reflection plucked from history: there are times to take the counsel of your fears, and times not to.

I’m not sure we all know which we’re looking at in higher education technology at the moment. Nevertheless my observation, Methuselah, is that the younger generation are avidly reading in a range of different ways. The serious question which your apprehension has raised for me is whether we’re doing enough to create frameworks and quiet spaces that enable them to extend this skill beyond short grabs.

And whether we’re doing enough to extend our own skills in this area?

29 08 2011
Britney Titus

I wasn’t going to comment on this one, but then a few things happened over the weekend that applies to this argument and now I can’t resist. My 11 year-old cousin went to church with my mom on Sunday. She went to bring her ipad in to church and my mom was like, “you don’t need to bring that in sweetie” and my cousin replied, “but my bible is on it.”

Given that the church is super traditional anyways, my cousin ended up not bringing it in. However, I really can’t fault her on wanting to use it. I still prefer actual text in the form of a book rather than to e-books, but if I had grown up in the 21st century and had been reading on an ipod since I was seven (as my cousin has), it might have been a different story.

Same goes for this student. If he is going to read and learn better by having his book on his phone rather than an actual text, I can’t really fault him for it. In regards to whether or not he will be on facebook or some other site, I think in a history class it is easy to tell. If this student is failing to pay attention and is clearly distracted it will be evident in his lack of contribution to the discussion. In my summer historiography course, I read all the assigned articles on my computer and brought my computer to class instead of printing them off. Furthermore, my professor could attest that I was actively involved in discussions and the reading. Sure, I could have been on facebook, but at the end of the day that’s not what she was thinking. She was thinking I had done the reading and was using my computer to look at pages that were discussed in class.

Thus, I think it is up to the student to take responsibility for whichever method they choose. If they do choose to have the textbook on their phone, then they should make it extremely apparent that the phone is being used for that and only that.

29 08 2011
Jonathan Rees

It’s funny Britney,

Your reaction is the exact same one my wife had when I described this problem to her.

31 08 2011
Lowell Mick White

Today–the first day of class–I told students the usual thing about how I never ever want to see an electronic device out on their desks, and a young woman said she had already downloaded the texts to her phone and her Ipad. “I swear I won’t look at Facebook!” she said. “I’ll even sign something!”

She no doubt means well….

16 09 2011
Is it time for professors to start banning e-books in their classes? « More or Less Bunk

[…] since I saw my first textbook on a phone earlier this semester, I’ve been thinking a lot about the costs and benefits of electronic […]

3 12 2012
World History MOOC Report 14: In which I am disappointed in Jeremy Adelman. « More or Less Bunk

[…] Marshall about student use of laptops in the classroom. This is a subject that’s near and dear to my heart, which I also think applies here because if you think it’s bad when the professor […]

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