The Shot Heard 'Round the World - Ween (mp3)
The Schooling - My Friend Steve (mp3)
Still working on my best of lists. So you’ll just have to read or ignore another random commentary today.
A story in the November 15 New York Times explores the increasing use of technological “clickers” to monitor student attendance and attention in college classrooms, and parents all over the country who are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to advance their children’s knowledge and abilities, should be thrilled that technology is at last doing something to prevent rather than provide distraction for their kids.
Remember when someone on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” wants to Ask the Audience? And then everyone in the audience keys in their answers? Best I can tell, technology is allowing professors to make the college lecture hall or classroom into a giant, individually-trackable Ask the Audience.
So when Ben Stein is up there asking the snoozing classroom about the Laffer Curve and Voo-Doo Economics, he can actually track the attentiveness of each student in that class by requiring them to input answers while he banters about.
Therefore, if I’m paying for my child’s college education, I don’t really care how boring or shitty a given teacher or professor may be. I care that my child shows up to class, pays attention, and works diligently. The person most essentially responsible for my child’s education is... my child.
When my advisees tell me they are doing poorly in a class because a teacher is bad or boring, I consider that to be a convenient and lazy excuse most of the time. (Occasionally, the level of teacher crappiness is indeed reasonable cause for student struggle.)
Plenty of studies correlate positive relational dynamics with student performance. The more a kid likes his or her teacher, the more they trust and respect that person, the better they’re likely to do in a class. Fine. But if part of college is to prepare us for the harsh world beyond, then part of that education is that we cannot solely rely on those in charge of us to be our motivators and inspirators. Almost all of us will, at some point or another, work for people who don’t inspire us, who don’t encourage us. This will not excuse us from remaining passionate or committed to our responsibilities. And if it does excuse us, then the job is a job rather than a calling.
Technology, like all great tools, can be used for good or ill, for advancement or dysfunction. Laptops and cell phones and Twitter and everything else in our modern techno-worlds can be both good and bad at once, just like humans.
And the harsh truth is, in college classrooms all around the country, a little more Big Brother is a good idea. Next up: lightscribe pens with fingerprint identification for in-class essays, software with plagiarism software that works much like spell-check now, underlining suspect passages almost as we type. (NOTE: If someone reading this is smart enough to come up with a good business model, I only ask for a tiny pittance for the idea. Have your people get in touch with my people.)