what I’ve learned from teaching in a computer lab

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


Categories: technology

%d bloggers like this: