Hillary Reinsberg, one of my advisees here at Penn and a fabulously snarky blogger and twitterer, is writing pieces now for The Huffington Post. Her first piece is about technology in the classroom. The power-point-aided lecture of today puts her to sleep. "While our parents' generation bemoans those pontificating figureheads of yesteryear, could today's PowerPoint-reliant professors be even worse?" Anyone who has read this blog's more or less constant campaign against the lecture will easily guess that I'm going to side with Hillary, although in my view she doesn't quite find the core of the problem. Giving an old-fashioned "oration" in lieu of PowerPoint slides is not really any better. The problem is that, given what new media enables us to do outside the classroom time and space, we are still using that precious site for set-piece talks (talkings-at) rather than real interaction, which is the mode in which people learn best. But I like Hillary's skeptical verve here and I'm proud to say that students don't fall asleep in my classroom (they can't; they're too edgily ready to talk next).
Bruce Finsilver: "My favorite falling-asleep-in-class story from Penn: One morning as I was walking into a lecture, the students exiting the previous class were all ‘shushing’ us. I saw a poor guy sound asleep in the 5th row. Our lecturer walked in and began as usual. After about a half-hour, the sleeper woke up. We all watched as he tried to figure out where he was and what to do about it; should he sit out the rest of the lecture and pretend nothing was amiss, or should he just get up and leave? He finally stood up and marched out to general hysteria from the rest of us."