I was going to comment on an Inside Higher Ed blog post by “Eliza Woolf” (cute pseudonym–get it? Alternative: Virginia Dolittle) because of its tag line, “Eliza Woolf wonders what to make of students who seem disengaged from class and then give her great evaluations.” This has happened to me over the past few years, and I wondered if it was also happening to some of you.
But the blog post turned out to be extremely depressing in its portrait of an undergraduate population totally disengaged with college and even with one another. (Go read it yourself–I don’t have the heart to quote even a little of the most depressing parts here.) I’ve never had the experiences she describes to anywhere near the extent that she reports, although I think the point she makes about walking into a classroom or a lecture hall that’s completely quiet is an interesting one:
I’ve also become accustomed, oddly, to walking into large lecture halls packed with students sitting in near-total silence. The first time it happened I was really taken aback. Are they poised eagerly over their notebooks, ready to begin learning? Unfortunately, no. Some are just sitting there. Most are intimately engaged with their personal technology, be it an iPhone, iPad, iPod, i-book, what have you, blissfully unaware of either their surroundings or other students. Quite a few are caught up in online shopping, at Target, Amazon, Gap. It takes real effort on my part to get some of them to unplug, or at least to minimize whatever distracting screen they’re looking at, and pay attention for the duration of class.
This has started to happen in my classes–I walk into a silent room instead of a classroom happily chatting. But I think this is less a generational phenomenon than an accidental phenomenon. Students will be consulting their smart phones silently if there’s no one in the class who greets them and engages them–I do that when I walk in, but I’ve noticed that in some classes, I walk into a “warmup act” already in progress. Continue Reading »