Thursday, November 08, 2007

New Class(room) War: Teacher vs. Technology

"Halfway through the semester in his market research course at Roanoke College last fall, only moments after announcing a policy of zero tolerance for cell phone use in the classroom, Prof. Ali Nazemi heard a telltale ring. Then he spotted a young man named Neil Noland fumbling with his phone, trying to turn it off before being caught.

“Neil, can I see that phone?” Professor Nazemi said, more in a command than a question. The student surrendered it. Professor Nazemi opened his briefcase, produced a hammer and proceeded to smash the offending device. Throughout the classroom, student faces went ashen." (Samuel G. Freedman, New York Times, 11/7/07)

Before becoming too outraged (or instinctively applauding) this professors handling of an increasing classroom problem, click on the article title link and read; it was a setup with interesting results. Found via Steven Bell's blog, the Kept-Up Academic Librarian, this is a growing situation in today's classrooms.

Why situation? Students do not necessarily view the intrusive technology as a problem. There has been an increasing amount of discussion regarding technology and noise, see Steven's post on the ACRL blog from last week; The Academic library is no place for fun.

As a member of the previously discussed technology Faculty Learning Community at Ashland, we are two meetings in to the year long discovery of educational technology, integrating it into our curriculums and libraries, and looking at the intrinsic value of said technology. Something we have not yet discussed is this particular aspect of the technology. Beyond the obvious, how do we make the determination of useful verses intrusive?

Earlier this week several librarians on staff, myself included, viewed a Blended Librarian webcast (part of the Learning Times Network). The topic for this particular session was Designing Deliberately--Putting Pedagogy Into Your Library Instruction Products, and Nadaleen Tempelman-Kluit spoke to Multimedia Learning & Pedagogy. Within this presentation, Ms. Tempelman-Kluit discussed 7 principles of multimedia design, included was one that is particularly relevant to this post: "Students learn better when extraneous words, pictures, and sounds are excluded." While this includes simple things such as keyboard typing and mouse clicks during presentations, the argument could be made that inclusion of extraneous technology such as cell phones, blackberries, and texting would be part of this whole.

One thing is sure; the balancing act between integrating instructional technology in a classroom for learning purposes and removing it for the same, yet different, reason is just beginning.

Update: See also Will Richardson's blog, Weblogg-ed for his response to this NYT article.

"We can try to fight this, I suppose, as many schools are. Or, we can try to inculcate appropriate use from early on by modeling our own cell phone use to access infromation and learn throughout the curriculum. Bottom line is yep, this is a much more distract-able world. We have to somehow find strategies to teach our kids to use cell phones and computers and the like in effective ways, and we also have to bend our thinking a bit in terms of what we ask our kids to do in classrooms in the first place. " (Richardson, Weblogg-ed, 11/08/07)

Again, though much of this focus is upon traditional classrooms, library instruction is facing this obstacle - or opportunity - as well.

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