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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Professor Destroys Laptop as a Warning for Students



Talk about an ego-maniacal professor. This professor has serious issues with student-based learning. Watch the video above and you will see Kieran Mullen, a physics professor at the University of Oklahoma, bathe a laptop in Liquid Nitogen and then shatter the computer on the floor with the threat, "Don't bring laptops and work on them in class!"

What does this mean? Why is he scared of students bringing computers to class? Laptops in class can be a distraction, but it can also be an amazingly interactive tool that will enable the students to find new ideas to integrate with the discussion. Robin Galloway writes about how we run a backchannel in our lecture classes so that students are able to discuss the ideas that are covered in lecture.

What do you think?
  • Do you allow laptops in your lectures or classes?
  • Do you encourage students to use their laptops in class?
  • How do you use laptops to engage your students in the classroom learning experience?
Z
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13 comments:

  1. I'd like to know if this guy actually follows through with this threat if someone brings their laptop in...

    something tells me he doesn't...

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  2. How insecure about your own teaching methods and materials does one have to be such that they ban a tool which would enable their students to get all the possible knowledge they have access to? Jut because I use a laptop during a lecture does not mean I am Facebooking, Tweeting, or checking email. I am taking notes, tying information in class to information found online. And, you know what? Maybe I am Tweeting what I am learning (though I dislike twitter, so I wouldn't personally be using that "tool"). Let's ban pens. We should ban pencils. Ban paper, too. Let's use rocks and slate. Oh wait, that is also technology. Well, crap, let us simply bask in the glory of the professor's diatribes.

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  3. I want to know how students with LD's react to this. I've had presenters at in services tell me I can't use my laptop. I pulled out my phone and offered to call our Staff Development and HR departments and have a conversation about ADA. I'm dysgraphic and dyslexic my computer is a tool I need and use. Every time I've been allowed to use my laptop.

    He must not think much of his teaching if laptops are such a threat. I've noticed that the workshops that object to my laptop are often based on very faulty science or are bilking the district for a ton of money. In one case they claimed their founder was a big deal in a field that must be licensed. I couldn't find him in any state list of those licensed to practice in Texas, where the group is located.

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  4. kherbert,

    You make some great points about learning disabilities. I don't have a learning disability but I can't handwrite too well. I HAVE to type. I wouldn't stay in a class that didn't allow computers.

    Good observation about how boring his lectures must be.

    Z

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  5. Computers have their place in education. But I can speak from experience regarding laptops in the classroom. They have to be carefully monitored and used at appropriate times. Or else a lecture can rapidly devolve into an hour (or more) of facebook/twitter/farmville/et cetera. Eliminating laptops is not the answer, but thoughtful consideration to their use and utility in the classroom is key.

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  6. I suspect a strong element of "tongue-in-cheek" here; initially both he and the students were laughing, so it seemed like a set-up to demonstrate freesing points or whatever physical principle. However, he may be dead serious about not allowing laptops in the classroom.
    Teaching at a community college, many of my students can't afford laptops, so I can't require them to bring them. From my casual observation, the ones that do bring laptops are using them for legitimate purposes (taking notes, looking up terms).
    I would like to incorporate more "live" research, particularly for my Environmental Science classes, but when i've brought the Department's "crash cart" of laptops to class, we seem to overload the wi-fi's capabilities (students have difficulty loggin on, and maintaining a connection).
    It's the cell-phone-weilding students whom are the distractions. They "hide" their phones under the desks, thinking I can't see or hear them texting.
    I may ban even vibrating phones, because we can all hear and feel the vibrataions.
    I don't want to be seen as a Luddite or an Ogre, but there's a point at which one person's entertainment is another's distraction.

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  7. Oh my goodness! Was that actually a student's Laptop?
    Using technology can be a great way to enhance student learning. If it is such a distraction, why don't he take the distraction and make it a tool? Insecure or resistence to change will cause heart ache...

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  8. WOW! I can't believe this professor. If he makes the class interesting enough for the students, he wouldn't have to worry about them being distracted by the many things on the computer (internet). He could also incorporate the Internet into his instruction. I guess another thing that bothers me is students pay to take a college course....what they get out of the course is up to them. Therefore, they should be given the opportunity to learn how they want.

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  9. I have a love/hate relationship with laptops in class, from a student perspective... I have brought my laptop to class, and I have used it to take notes, record audio with the prof's permission, and other legitimate purposes... however, I have also sat behind the farmville/shopping/twitter, and little else is SO distracting or annoying. I wish there were a good way to monitor the use of laptops in the classroom, but it seems like this is one more area in which academic honesty has its own rewards.

    I sat next to a severely learning-disabled student once in a class with a less-than-helpful professor... nice enough guy, but he started off the semester by telling us that the president of the school had emphasized that all students have different learning styles, and that the profs should seek to use as many different learning styles as possible. His answer? "If you're a visual learner, read the book. If you're an audio learner, read the book out loud to yourself. If you're a kinesthetic learner, walk around while you read the book. That's my response to this 'learning styles' stuff." :)

    She brought her laptop to class and he told her to shut it because he was "afraid she'd be looking at pornography on the Internet" (she's sitting in the front row, has her book spread out in front of her, etc). Apparently this is all that some professors think laptops are good for. Sad.

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  10. I have to agree with you about the love-hate relationship, Taleia. I love my computer and use it constantly. I feel incredibly out of place when I try to take notes using paper.

    Having said that, I taught a class today. The first half of it was engaging, but the second half was a little confusing so some of the students tuned out. I talked to a few who were typing after class. They told me that they were too confused to stick with me. I need to keep acloser eye on their activities and need to pay more attention to how well the students are understanding what I am saying.

    What do you do as far as computer/classroom management?

    Z

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  11. This video was added to the Tweed blog on the Chronicle of Higher Education website - take a look at the comments (see http://tinyurl.com/yc2v87g) -- I find it a sad commentary on how faculty in higher education view technology in the 21st century.

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  12. I followed what @LaLindell said about the video being linked from the Chronicle.

    It had a link to the professor's website. You might want to look and read his rationale.

    ttp://www.nhn.ou.edu/~kieran/

    Z

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  13. I can understand the professor's concern about having distracted students in his class due to a laptop. I teach in a lab which every student has a computer. I see how students can become easily distracted from something that is important even when they are legitimately trying to work on something related to the class. Fortunately, I have the ability to lock student computers when I temporarily need their attention. This is one way of removing the distraction when relaying important information or engaging in a discussion. But, my students are in eighth grade and not college student who are paying to be in the course. Another thing, with laptops, he could always just ask students to close the lid when necessary.

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Please share your ideas on this topic.