June 13, 2014, 2:40 pm
This article, “The Case for Banning Laptops in the Classroom”, written by Dan Rockmore for The New Yorker, has been getting considerable airtime on social media this week. As a classroom instructor I can certainly attest to the power of technology to distract and interfere with student learning. But I had three issues with the “case” being made.
1. Because the headline focuses on banning laptops from the classroom, it’s easy to miss this very important point made in the article:
These examples [of how learning is negatively affected by the presence of technology] can be seen as the progeny of an ill-conceived union of twenty-first-century tools (computers, tablets, smartphones) with nineteenth-century modalities (lectures). I’m not discussing the “flipped classroom,” wherein lectures are accessed outside of class on digital devices and the classroom is used as a…
July 23, 2012, 10:36 pm
Marshall Thompson writes in this blog post from a couple of weeks ago that he’s concerned over the tone of the recent and ongoing Khan Academy/#mtt2k debate and is worried about the cost it incurs. It’s a good post, and in the process of commenting on it I realized a few things. Marshall writes:
I get the impression that KA has a goal of pedagogical soundness. Is this the best way to help them achieve that goal?
Sal Khan is not a dummy. He is clearly working through some of the same pedagogical misconceptions we all worked through (and continue to work through). How can we best help him through his personal journey without alienating him or causing him to be defensive?
I have tremendous respect for Sal Khan, but I have to admit that I’m not really concerned about his personal journey or his working through pedagogical misconceptions. It would be fantastic if he began…
July 5, 2012, 4:13 pm
Amid all the shuffle of the #mtt2k phenomenon and my piece on Khan Academy this week — which is well on its way to being the most-read and -retweeted article I’ve ever done — Konstantin Kakaes put up a response to critiques of his Slate piece on educational technology. In it, he addresses both my critique and that of Paul Karafiol. I wanted to give just a few counter-critiques here. I haven’t had a chance to read Paul’s piece, so I’m just going to focus on the part of the response that referenced my post. (Here’s the full post I wrote about the Slate article.)
Let’s go back to the original Slate piece, which said:
Though no well-implemented study has ever found technology to be effective, many poorly designed studies have—and that questionable body of research is influencing decision-makers.
The Slate piece suggests that researcher bias, brought on by having a financial stake in…
July 3, 2012, 9:08 am
At some point around the beginning of February 2012, David Coffey — a co-worker of mine in the math department at Grand Valley State University and my faculty mentor during my first year — mentioned something to me in our weekly mentoring meetings. We were talking about screencasting and the flipped classroom concept, and the conversation got around to Khan Academy. Being a screencaster and flipped classroom person myself, we’d talked about making screencasts more pedagogically sound many times in the past.
That particular day, Dave mentioned this idea about projecting a Khan Academy video onto the screen in a classroom and having three of us sit in front of it, offering snarky critiques — but with a serious mathematical and pedagogical focus — in the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I told him to sign me up to help, but I got too busy to stay in the loop with it.
June 27, 2012, 11:52 am
Slate magazine has been running several articles on education this week, including two today that are of interest. This one by Konstantin Kakaes is worth looking at more closely, if only because it somehow manages to gather almost every wrong idea about technology in education in existence into a single, compact article.
The piece proposes that the effort to increase the use of technology in education “is beginning to do to our educational system what the transformation to industrial agriculture has done to our food system over the past half century: efficiently produce a deluge of cheap, empty calories.” I’m not sure which “effort” Kakaes is referring to, since there is no single push being coordinated from a secret underground bunker that I know of, and some efforts are better-conceived than others. But nevermind.
There are two overriding conceptual errors that drive this article…
June 11, 2012, 4:18 pm
I’m attending the American Society of Engineering Education conference and expo this week in San Antonio, and I hope to have some short blog posts from the various sessions and talks I’m attending.
This morning I attended part of a session on model-eliciting activities and the main plenary, which was titled “Keeping it Real” and focused on tying together academia and industry in engineering education. There were lots of good ideas discussed, but if there was one coherent take-away from these talks, it’s that engineers — at least the ones whose focus is on learning and teaching — are a lot further along than mathematicians in education practice.
Granted, my title here is a little overstated. I am not looking at a representative sample of engineers at this conference. These engineers are the ones who care and think the most about effective learning and teaching; I’m sure there are…
March 8, 2012, 8:30 am
I found this quote the other day from a book about electricity. Read it and see if you can guess the source and the year in which it was made:
It would be a dry, dull and uninteresting thing to tell a [child] that electricity can be generated by riveting together two pieces of dissimilar metals, and applying heat to the juncture. But put into his hands the metals, and set him to perform the actual work of riveting the metals together, then wiring up the ends of the metals, heating them, and, with a galvanometer, watching for results, it will at once make him see something in the experiment which never occurred when the abstract theory was propounded.
He will inquire first what metals should be used to get the best results, and finally, he will speculate as to the reasons for the phenomena. When he learns that all metals are positive-negative or negative-positive to each…
January 14, 2012, 2:22 pm
Audrey Watters writes in Hack [Higher] Education that maybe it’s time for programming to join critical thinking and effective writing as part of the body of required knowledge for all university students:
But I will posit that all students should learn programming, whether they plan to become programmers or not. Many universities already require students take composition in order to graduate. Perhaps it’s time for programming — “the new literacy” — to become a requirement too?
I don’t mean that every student needs to learn C++ or Python or Perl or Java or Ruby. But I do think everyone needs to know how the Web works — how search engines operate, for example, and what’s “server side” and what’s “client side” and why the difference matters. Everyone needs to know some HTML (a mark-up, not a programming, language I realize). And with the move towards the fifth revision of the HTML…
January 9, 2012, 12:53 pm
Over the break, I had the opportunity to experiment with an iPad 2 that my department has purchased. The department is loaning the iPad out to faculty for two weeks at a time to see if there is a compelling educational use for the device with our students — in which case, I’m assuming we will try to buy more. As tech-obsessed as I am, this is the first time I’ve had to spend time with an iPad, and here are my impressions.
As a piece of high technology, the iPad is pretty marvelous. I’ve been an iPhone 4 user for some time now, so the beauty of the iOS user interface ought to be commonplace for me, but it isn’t. I can see why Apple marketed it as a “magical” device when it first came out. It certainly has the look and feel of magic. I enjoyed using it (and so did my kids, even though they were not technically supposed to be handling it).
But I always approach technology, especially…
January 4, 2012, 8:00 am
I have been using clickers in my classes for three years now, and for me, there’s no going back. The “agile teaching” model that clickers enable suits my teaching style very well and helps my students learn. But I have to say that until reading this Educause article on the flight out to Boston on Sunday, I hadn’t given much thought to how the clicker implementation model chosen by the institution might affect how my students learn.
Different institutions implement clickers differently, of course. The article studies three different implementation models: the students-pay-without-incentive (SPWOI) approach, where students buy the clickers for class but the class has no graded component for clicker use; the the students-pay-with-incentive (SPWI) approach, where students purchase clickers and there’s some grade incentive in class for using them (usually participation credit, but this can…