I taught a writing course for first-term students in a campus computer lab and offer the following gained wisdom:
- students like to communicate with technology, even when they are in the same room
- this confirms my thinking that colleges need more and better technology spaces where students and faculty can gather for social networking, studying, writing, making movies, editing music, creating podcasts. . . . in short, for collaborating
- you really can ask students to turn off their monitors when you want to have a distraction-free conversation–at least it works with freshmen
- such activities as peer review can be done electronically, not only saving paper and the cost to students of copying, but with better results
- students generally write longer responses, because typing is easier than handwriting, and they are not limited to a finite space on the peer review form
- multi-tasking is not the end of education: It’s true, I am permissive, telling students that as long as they are doing any work that I require in class, I do not care if they are doing other things, like IMing or checking their email, but it all works out:
- students who are distracted by such actions, simply don’t do them
- students who abuse the freedom quickly discover which work takes priority
- students who can do it all at once, do it without bothering anyone else
- on the negative side, the tendency to assign writing activities often takes up more time than planned, because students will write a lot, and discussion time can be cut short
- the configuration of our labs can make discussion seem like a distraction–a big computer monitor in front of you implies that you should be using it
Being in a lab every class day might not be the preferred situation, although it’s pretty nice for a writing course. Another option would be to have access to a regular classroom occasionally, but space is at a premium these days, and having two rooms for one class is unlikely.
What do you think you would like about teaching in a computer lab?
Next week: Blended Learning