Turn off the computer?

Unplugged?At the risk of having rotten tomatoes thrown at me, and being ostracised from the blogging community, here is something that occurred to me today in class. 

I was lecturing/encouraging/suggesting that my students devote some time over this coming 3-day weekend to revision for their upcoming mock exams.  I went further and advised them to turn off their phones and computers while doing so.  To devote some uninterrupted time to active learning of the material they will be tested on, without the “distraction” of email, texts, internet, SMS, facebook, etc.  Was this bad advice?  I don’t think so.  Yes they can benefit from an online community of fellow students, help each other understand concepts, get ideas from peers, but I think there has to come a time when they need to focus purely on the revision and not multitask.  Am I expecting too much from them in asking them to do this when they are so used to being connected 24/7?  Is there a new, more effective way to revise material that I don’t yet know about?

I’m ducking behind my computer here!

Image from http://z.hubpages.com/u/136804_f260.jpg



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11 responses to “Turn off the computer?

  1. nearlythebionicwoman

    I am not a student and yet I totally understand. My step children are in college and when they come over it is non stop texting. We go out to dinner, texting. Do they text when they go to the bathroom. I did send a text while in a jury duty jury pool thing but I got a message that my 6 year old was sick and I obviously couldn’t call….
    A lot of the time, if I am with my husband and young son, I will leave my cell phone at home or turn it off just for some peace. I am a computer addict thought and it kills me not to have it for any length of time. I know it does me good though when I just close it and take a rest. I remember that when the older kids were younger, their teacher wanted everything typed out from the computer and on a disk. I think that she contributed to this problem. She said that she couldn’t read their writing! Are you kidding me?? You are the teacher. make them write more so they get better at it. It sounds like you are a great teacher.

  2. contej

    I think it’s a good idea Nadine. Sure, having access to information from a variety of sources is good but eventually we are preparing them to sit for exams in which they are by themselves so why not do a bit of that sort of work berfore-hand. Good idea Nadine.

  3. But surely after 45 minutes hard work they need to reward themselves with a quick check of their email or a game of spider? That’s what I do to get me through a marking crisis. And even the clever ones can only concentrate for 45 mins max. Having said that a walk around the block would probably be better for them but they wouldn’t see that as a reward. Kids just love the internet….

  4. hamaguchik

    Nadine, I love reading your thoughts. You write in such an entertaining, inspiring way. I’m also glad to be seeing you play a bit of the devil’s advocate, or maybe just voice of reason. What we don’t know and what we don’t know that we don’t know can be a bit daunting, can’t it? I can now feel that I am not alone!

  5. dickinsonn

    Thanks everyone for the comments. I think this raises another issue – the disparity between learning 2.0 and external examinations, such as the IB. It is all very well – better even – educating young minds to learn in a variety of ways, using all the latest web 2.0 tools, making the students part of the process in deciding how they learn best, getting them to reflect, and choose the most appropriate method to demonstrate their learning, etc etc ….. but then we are going to have them sit in an examination hall and give them a pen and paper to write down answers to questions that they cannot research or use their PLN for.


  6. teachermac

    I agreed with your idea to a degree up until your last comment.
    Personally, I love taking week-ends and weeks away from e-mail and computers whenever I can.
    However, expecting them to study without computers I think is a bit unfair, though I guess it depends on how we teach. If we’re using web 2.0 to teach the students, then they will want to use their plns to look up what they learned. The videos and websites from which they’ve learned the class information become their learning mnemonics just as my written notes in my textbook were my learning mnemonics (I could tell you what went on in class by looking at the page in my notes, just like they will make those same connections when they see the web pages).
    Being a computer teacher, I have computers available to my students in all classes so all of my notes come from websites, presentations and word documents. It would be impossible for my students to study the IB computer theory without a computer. However, were I teaching another discipline, I would still have all of the materials available online and get the students looking up as much as possible, but I know I would be more limited at our school because of lab space and the lack of a laptop program.
    While the plns and websites are different from writing answers on the computer science IB exam, just like having to write a computer program using a computer is different from having to write a computer program on paper (IB should not be making them write computer programs on paper), the learning done through using the web is how they learned the materials, and I still have to teach them how to program for real, even though the IB exam is fake. I do however, have to give them paper programming exams to prep them for the IB, and that I do not like because I don’t think it’s right.
    How would you suggest teaching if not using the web? Would it be using chalk and talk so that they write notes on paper and see no other presentation styles? Would that prepare them better?
    I do think that they should get away from skype and facebook when they’re studying for my course, which I suppose is what you’re mainly getting at, but I would be proud to see them using the computer to research and study.

  7. Jon

    Interesting thoughts – but surely the student would actually save time if they did not multi-task. I know myself that if I’m watching T.V. whilst trying to work, the task will take much longer to complete and it’s more likely that I’ll make mistakes (although being male, we’re apparently not that good at multi-tasking). However, I know from asking students how long a particular homework exercise has taken to complete, the times stated vary considerably. When I ask them to clarify, several of the students who claim that the homework took them a long time, also state that they were doing other tasks at the same time (usually on msn or facebook). Similarly, when marking work, I have lost track of the responses to questions that simply do not make any sense. I’m convinced that this is because students are not solely focusing on the task.

    However, I’m also aware of the fact that students also learn from each other and through blogging, email, texting etc. they can clarify a question or task with another student. Obviously this leads to concerns over individual work.

  8. Nadine


    Thanks for the comments. I do think it may be different for different subjects. I was in no way suggesting we should not use the computer for our teaching. More that the students should not use it for social networking or email while they are supposed to be actively revising material for exams.

    What Jon was saying, about the disproportionate amount of time some students spend on assignments, rings true. We constantly hear from students that they are overloaded with homework and don’t get to bed before the early hours of the morning. Would this be true of they were not on facebook at the same time as writing their lab report?


  9. Pingback: The Teacher’s Dilemma-Content Delivery vs Understanding « Less Chalk More Talk

  10. oomensm

    Great post Nadine.

    I agree with much of what you say. The potential for Web 2.0 is amazing but I think, like all things, balance is the key. Is there any difference between asking a student to close their textbook for 15 minutes and take a break or asking them to log off for a while? What they need to see is that effective learning takes place when the brain is given opportunities to absorb and sort the information it has taken in.

    I think it is also worth noting that we come at this from an entirely different learning perspective historically. Teachermac alludes to it in his comments about our use of textbooks. When I was a high school student (and a uni student for that matter) all I had was my desk, an A4 pad, and my textbooks – a Zen-like atmosphere compared to what many kids have going on at their desks these days. It’s natural for us to assume that this is the way to go about study and revision.

    The fact is that students now are completely tuned in to having a few things going on at once; cell phone, Youtube, Facebook, iTunes et al. They are the multi task generation. My students look at me like I am the devil incarnate when I ask them to concentrate solely on their film work. It almost seems unnatural to them to have to think about one thing.

    With the amount of online learning for this Masters course, I know I need to set myself a deadline of 10pm each night to complete coursework, otherwise I’ll take a sneaky peek at the football gossip, or work on my website for my family back in Oz. What I think kids need to be able to do is set priorities and deadlines for themselves. Whether you can teach them the self-discipline to be able to follow through is another thing.

    Thanks for your thought-provoking work!

  11. Dear Nadine,

    Ah, I love the discussion.

    Implicit in the discussion is that we can balance this “world” we have created on-line with the far more intricate and complex world sitting in the world outside the monitor.

    Kids do love the internet. So do adults. Many (most?) of us would love sitting in a corner zapping our brains with dopamine, too. If pleasure is the goal, why not?

    The bigger question is what should be the goal (or perhaps better stated as “What makes life worth living?”). So, yes, disconnecting is a wonderful way to focus on an immediate task, as you note. I might add that it is also an excellent way to reconnect with the universe beyond the very arrow one we have created here on the web.

    (BTW, the photo of the leaf on your blog banner is wonderful.)

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