Wednesday, March 25, 2009

No Laptops in Class?

In honor of TechFest going on over in Reeve this afternoon, lets talk the most ubiquitous technology in the classrooms:  student laptops.

I spotted this story a few days ago:  Students do worse with laptops.  A prof. at UC Boulder did her own study and found that students with laptops did 11% worse than those without.

While observing a classroom not long ago, I noticed that the students who had laptops were by and large doing something unrelated to the material being presented.  They were surfing the web, reading e-mail, and worst of all, playing some sort of game.  The students themselves were not engaged, while those surrounding them were clearly distracted by all the activity.   A few of the laptop owners would stop what they were doing to type in the bullet points from the powerpoint, but only for a brief moment.

It was pretty pathetic and a demonstration, for me at least, that computers don't really help.  The little data in the story above also suggest that the students are not benefiting.

There are many ways to check out when in class, from dozing to doodling, but the massive distraction generated by laptop users increased the problem by sucking in those nearby.

A quick google also gives me this:  The Volokh Conspiracy surveyed students after banning laptops in his class.  They surveyed students in a first year law class and found that the ban was generally appreciated, in a context where there would be dozens, if not a majority of computer users.

I think I am going to add some sort of restriction to my classroom policies.  I wonder if it should be a complete ban or rules about use and abuse. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Buy your Paper in Manila

The Chronicle of Higher Ed has an interesting article about the international market for college papers.

In it, we learn that a company in the Philipines is having great success writing student essays for Americans.  The students here pay  $20-30 a page to have writers somewhere else to their homework for them.

I posted on a similar topic a few year ago --google banned links to paid term papers, but obviously students are finding their way without google's ads.

The article gives an interesting look at the shady world of having your papers written by someone else.   It is just another sign of the issues that we have written and talked about--the devaluing of a college education.  Those who hire someone to write their papers don't think of college as anything more than a a path to a necessary piece of paper.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pass more or drink more?

It is a schiztophrenic day in the news today, in that President Obama called yesterday for colleges to increase completion rates for students.  The article tells us that he will " focus more than he has to date on the administration's intent to hold states and colleges more accountable for ensuring that students who enter college succeed once there."

At the same time, USA Today reports that college freshmen spend more time drinking that studying.  A study shows that students spend over 10 hours a week at parties and only 8 studying.

How do we reconcile these two disparate understandings of college?  Clearly these two things are connected.  How do we get students to stop partying and start studying?  

If students took college seriously, they wouldn't spend so little time studying.  If they thought they wouldn't pass on 8 hours a week, they might study more.  Raising our own standards would decrease our retention rate, making the Federal bean counters (not to mention our own administration) upset with us.

We face the same issues with the imposition of standardized tests.  If we didn't pass so many marginal students, we wouldn't be under pressure of having someone else provide the backbone which we seem to be lacking. . .

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Feedback on the Budget?!

The chancellor is asking for feedback from the university on his budget priorities.  

The survey asks if we think that his list is appropriate and what we would select as the highest priorities.

It also asks for suggestions about ways to deal with the ensuing cuts.

I think that we should focus on keeping class sizes small and increasing the quality of our student body instead of continuing to grow for growth's sake.

They keep telling us that we have low administrative costs, but it sure seems like there are a lot of vice/deputy/assistant deans/chancellors/provosts running around.