Digital pedagogy in the funnies

Today’s Doonesbury is about teaching in the laptop era:

Zipper clearly needs to visit Inbox Zero to manage his e-mail.

This strip raises some questions for me, though: Aside from the e-mail joke, what do you take to be the target?  Is it these multitasking kids today, who use their fancy technology to do anything but the task at hand?

The setting, though, appears to be a large lecture hall, and the professor is spending class time asking elementary questions.  It’s hard to know what kind of course this is, although given Zipper’s history (like his uncle’s) of being a professional student, it’s probably a gen ed course of some sort.  I’ll concede that Zipper seems pretty unprepared, but my sympathies are still with him: The professor has given him no reason to prepare.

If class time is spent delivering information that’s probably in the textbook, and in grilling students on their recall from the text, well, that’s a pretty stupid use of the limited time one has with students.  We need to think about how to use that time better: to make students want to prepare, certainly, and perhaps also to leverage the technology that seems ubiquitous in this strip.  It might not look very much like a lecture, and that classroom might need to be redesigned, but it will give students reasons to learn the material.  Sufficiently motivated, even Zipper can do interesting work.

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2 Responses to Digital pedagogy in the funnies

  1. Donna says:

    Thanks for posting this. Last week in my class for new graduate teaching assistants, the question of students’ laptop use came up. A few folks swore they were going to start forbidding any laptops in their classes. I think I’ll pass this comic along to them–might make for good discussion.

  2. irtisaam says:

    “The professor has given him no reason to prepare.” Admittedly i’m no fan of lecture halls, but i must differ on the idea that professor has given him no reason to prepare. The class is doubtlessly scheduled, and most likely there is a syllabus, and there is the social convention of coming to class prepared to take notes, ask questions, covered the material, and having finished any given assignments. If classrooms were tv shows, then yes, there’s no reason to prepare. Disasters aside, in a structured learning environment there is no reason why a student shouldn’t show up prepared for class, prepared to think.

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