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November 09, 2012


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Jim Gardner

On the point that students participating in on-line discussions tune each other out: I'm not so sure that something similar doesn't happen even in live classrooms. Over the last few years, I've had occasion to observe many classes taught by colleagues. Whenever I do, if the class is a large one, I make a point of sitting in the back and providing the teacher with a report on student laptop usage. One of the things I've seen consistently is that even students who are generally inclined to pay close attention in class and to use their laptops only for note-taking are much more likely to check their e-mail or bring up a web screen when another student is speaking. That is, they will hang on pretty much every word the prof says, but they are not nearly so interested in what their classmates have to say. My impression is that this is especially the case for classmates whom they don't particularly respect. This leads me to believe that at least some students feel they don't profit much from hearing the comments of other students, or at least most other students. Does this mean they are missing something important? Or does it mean they are shrewd managers of their time and effort? Perhaps the answer differs for different students.

Jacqueline Lipton

Interesting observations, Jim, and that certainly accords with what I suspect is going on in a lot of real world classrooms. I've definitely had student evaluations complaining if I spend a lot of time in classes/seminars eliciting views from students rather than just telling them what I think.

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