I had more students with laptops in my classrooms this semester than ever before. Apparently, according to some students and faculty, many students are being ‘taught’ in high school to take notes on computers. They have not developed handwritten note taking skills. Thus, laptops are now an essential tool. Student lore is also full of stories about students who play multi-player online games or watch movies during class. Why bother coming to class, the aging student in me wonders?
But more disturbing for me than the misuse of laptops — at least from a pedagogical perspective — is the use of google during class. I am just starting to get used to students putting up their hand and questioning the validity something I’ve just spoken about because they’ve found an opposite opinion after googling a name or a concept. This practice is slightly frustrating when the students have access to a document that I don’t have memorized — like the complete text of Treaty 8 — and then after indicating that I can’t address their question completely, I realize that the quoted text has been taken completely out of context.
What I am not getting used to, though, is people using google to find out more about the lecture when they do not fully understand what I am saying. Rather than put up their hand and ask a question or for clarification, google becomes the in-class tutor. When I found out this was happening, I reminded students that I rely on their questions to know if I am teaching effectively. I rely on their questions to go off on tangents that are usually more interesting than the material at hand. And most importantly, the googlers are not asking questions publicly that almost certainly other students are wondering about too.
(Not so) simple solution: for the first time in my teaching (and student) career, I may ask students to turn off their wireless cards during class time.
Apparently, I may be out-to-lunch on this (see comments). That’s fine. It’s happened before. Is the solution simply to appeal to students to multi-task responsibly? Don’t get me wrong: I am quite comfortable telling students that I don’t know the answer to their (googled) questions. in that sense, I don’t find student use of the internet during class to be a threat. What I do find frustrating is that students may be googling and not asking questions at all.