28 September 2010

On the fly adjustments in lecutures

In one of my classes today, I was just... simply... frustrated.  It's the same class I've mentioned before where the professor likes to have the class clap in response to questions, to make sure we're paying attention.  The prof emailed the class, and let us know that we should bring laptops to class for an in class activity.  There was also an in class demonstration today.  I'm not writing to critique the class so much as pointing out some of the adjustments that have to be made in lectures-- even if you have the perfect combination of technology and student kung fu, you still have to roll with some punches.

The in class demonstration was actually rather interesting.  The additional wrinkle was that the prof asked the class to hypothesize about what would happen with the demo, and that involved handing in a sheet of paper.  So that involved a bit of class time.  Then there was some lecture, which I have to review later and fill in blanks for (not unusual in this class).  Then, there was the activity that required laptops.

In this lecture hall, there are those fold-out note-taking desks that barely can hold a small notebook, much less a three ring binder (which is what I use; I end up getting a aisle seat whenever possible so I have room to hang it off the edge).  So when I got to class today, I had to boot up the laptop and get connected to the wifi network, close my laptop, get my notes binder out, get my Livescribe smartpen out and turned on, and then take notes on the demo and the lecture.  I ended up stacking my binder on top of my closed laptop when I needed to take notes.

When we got to the laptop activity, I had no place to put my binder to take any notes.  I have a Macbook, and it's bigger than the desk I had to work with.  I also had no place to put my smartpen, so didn't get anything recorded.  While I got a little bit out of the lecture accompanying the laptop activity, I spent far more time booting up, getting connected, and rearranging stuff than I did paying attention to what I was supposed to be learning.  I didn't feel I got much out of it. 

It's stressful enough being in that class, but juggling a smartpen, a three ring binder, a laptop, a set of reading glasses, and a backpack is just a little much.  I won't say I was completely triggered, but the whole juggling act made me a little more anxious than I needed to bed.  Next time that comes up I'm going to skip the laptop, write down the URL of the activity, and take decent notes so I don't miss anything important. 

The professor really doesn't care if you visit the web page he's pointing at in class-- the idea is that the concept he/she is teaching gets stuck in your head and you learn something.  It is easy to blame the professor for making today's lecture complicated for me, but he wasn't trying to do that.  In this case, I just needed to look at what was going on and think about how I could handle it better next time.  For me, it might just be better if I skip the laptop next time.

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