Taking a Break? Read This!

If you’re in need of a break tonight, take a look at this wackiness from the TIMES education page today. Let’s just say this article focuses on cell phones and a hammer and there’s an angry professor in that company as well!!

How about prizes for the cleverest blog response to the article!!

You may need to register at the TIMES if you have not already done so to read the article. KES



Filed under Class Notes

5 responses to “Taking a Break? Read This!

  1. jmdegan

    I concede that I will not win our little competition for “cleverest blog response,” because I think the article has much to teach us.

    If you think that students who have their cell phones on in your classroom are waiting for the perfect opportunity to use it to advance their learning, you’re nuts. I agree with Mr. Carlin that if a student could give me a valid reason why they needed [your favorite electronic device here], could explain how they are using that technology to engage in what we are learning, then I’m all for it.

    But, ladies and gentlemen, we are teaching in a social environment that demands all entertainment, all of the time. We would be fools if we believed that any student’s primary use for their BlackBerry was academic.

    I know, I know. I’m a stick in the mud. Academics is a bad word. They are learning, just not what I want them to learn. They’re doing something meaningful to them, which lends their actions some kind of mystic awe that I am just too traditional and cynical to feel.

    In my defence, I would point out that school shouldn’t be a place where students come to show me what they can already do, but a place where they learn to do more. Do I want to engage the skills students bring into the classroom? Sure. It’s important for them to be able to place new skills into relation with old skills. But, as Professor Bugeja says “multi-tasking is good, but I want them to do more tasking in my class.”

    Yeah, I know that all of my skills are old. But there are a lot of students out there who could vastly improve their writing, and I can teach that skill. There are a lot of students out there who could be more adept users of texts, and I can teach that skill. Maybe their cell phones can teach that skill, too. If that’s the case, then we can all start looking for jobs at WalMart, ’cause they ain’t going to need us to stand in front of a room and say, “take your cell phones out and start learning.”

    And, I think it’s a very important point that Professor Bugeja makes about these devices becoming “indespensible.” What does it mean for students for whom the cell phone or laptop becomes such a potent force in their lives that they are unable to engage in what we have called literate behaviors without the machine?

    J. Degan

  2. sunyprof

    Jerry, I linked this article to take our minds off the demands of academic work and to lighten the mood since I know folks are stressed to the max with end of semester work. It was the hammer that got me.

    Let me go on record as saying that I was being facetious about our finding clever ways to respond to Professor Nazemi’s frustrated action.

    I am the queen of, as Prof B. in the article says, “tasking,” that is, high expectations for student work, and I would jump on, minus the hammer, any student in a class of mine who was more interested in his/her cell phone than in what we are doing in class.

    I do know though from watching my CEO brother “work” on his Blackberry 24/7 last week that increasingly handheld devices are going to have the capability of doing much of the world’s work.

    That said, I agree with much of what you say..although I would ask you to remember that typewriters made a lot of folks who believed only handwritten work was acceptable uncomfortable.

    The “machine” is not going away. How we choose to use it or not–that’s good material for culture-watchers.

    As for using this “news” as an object lesson–what can we learn you ask?–I wonder what we CAN, in fact, learn from this story.

    We can learn that there is a significant disconnect between professors’ goals for their students (“a life of the mind”) and students’ own experience of college (academic) life. Remember what I said in 506 last week about first semester students’ responses to my question about what had been defining moments for them this semester. Only a few scattered responses from 23 students focused on anything to do with a class at this college.

    In the article, students are described as “defiantly inattentive.” Well, yea. So now what?

    If we truly want to demand respect for learning, and fill classrooms w/students who want to learn what we have to teach, what do we all suggest?

    One of my suggestions would be we have to make the work (always relevant) but demanding and respond appropriately (with low grades) when students do not choose to do that work or do not do it well.

    Note the student w/the customer mentality who says, “you can sue.” Increasingly, professors are under siege from undergraduates who will do just that or be in the dean’s office within minutes of receiving a fair and honest assessment of their work. This is an interesting excerpt that appeared in ATLANTIC last summer re: the “me” generation.

    I take learning dead seriously. But Professor N’s taking that hammer to the cell phone–well, it reminded me of the great scene in the 1970’s (a critique of TV) film, Network, when Peter Finch leans out the window and yells: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” And that wasn’t funny either. So I’m reversing my original call for clever responses (although someone must have one!) and instead ask all of you again, what do we do–not w/the cell phones, but with the students?

    Jerry, we too can shout out the window all we want. Is anybody listening? KES

  3. allison

    I think schools should ban cell phones completely. Students used to be able to get along without them. When we were in high school, no one needed them, so I dont see why they are so necessary now.

    I think the professors reaction (or overreaction) was a little extreme. It’s not THAT annoying when a phone goes off in class. Perhaps it would be more effective to lower the student’s final grade each time the phone rings.

    The other student’s response “the student w/the customer mentality who says, “you can sue.”” is soooo typical. Not only is it a customer mentality, but it is a self-entitled, self-important, little spoiled brat mentality that most high schoolers have today. And it drives me insane. Parents give their precious little angels everything these days. It’s all about them. Meanwhile, they have no respect and only want to do what they want. Sorry for the rant, but it gets a little frusterating!

  4. jmdegan


    Clearly, no one is listening. Maybe you really need to hit someone with a proverbial (or literal) hammer for them to get it. I know the damned machine is here to stay. I’m not (quite) arrogant enough to believe that anything I say will change the world. But what of the idea of these devices as indespensible? When I read that, I thought of FEED, where the machine was able to invade every aspect of human life because of our initial advocation of its use in education. As we become more reliant on these technologies to do things for us, are we not becoming subjects created by the attention economy (which structures information by appeal, rather than quality)?

    J. Degan

  5. sofiapenna

    Hmm…Professor Ali’s quote got me:
    “Multitasking is good, but I want them to do more tasking in my class.”



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