Some would say that I haven’t earned the student’s attention, and that I haven’t put in enough effort to make the class so completely engaging that my students couldn’t imagine being any place else three days a week at 8:45 am besides my classroom.
But you know, I can only juggle chainsaws for so long.
Laura Bergalls, over at More Than PowerPoint, talked about the need to earn attention:
A modern audience uses modern tools. As a presenter, I need to learn to adapt my style to fit their needs. Why should the audience have to pacify my selfish needs for their attention? Why should I force my audience to stop using tools that let them learn and share information?
Indeed, Olivia Mitchell encourages presenters to embrace things like Twitter.
As a presenter, I agree. As an educator, I am torn over this.
On the one hand, I do try to make a talk something that is enjoyable rather than painful, and I do want to earn that attention.
On the other hand... What if I have evidence that laptop use in class hurts student performance? (There is.) That multitasking hurts learning? Should I just let them have their laptops running (and let everyone fight over the two or three seats in the room near a power outlet)?
I think doing nothing in that case is irresponsible of me as an educator. It makes me feel that I have given in to the wasteful “sink or swim” teaching technique, where absolutely everyone is on their own for everything at all times. As an educator, I don’t think it’s selfish of me to make a student aware of behaviours that are not productive to their learning. “I notice you haven’t been in class much” or reminding students to turn off their phones or even banning laptops are ways to try enforcing attention. I wonder if they are occasionally necessary to use in an educational setting, even as I try my damnedest to earn their attention.