Monday, April 02, 2007

Tales from Chemistry Class

Now that I've actually asked to teach our 250-student large lecture of calculus, I'm starting to think about how to TEACH a 250-student large lecture. (OK, so I haven't been assigned it yet, but I'm planning ahead.) Today I headed over to Chemistry, which has this sort of thing down to a science (as it were). Today's visit was to find out more about the Clickers -- little RF pads that the students use to respond to questions during class.

The experience was a bit mixed. Even using the Clickers to keep track of who's coming to class, there were about 50% of the students there today. However, the material from today's lecture isn't on tonight's exam, so attendance wasn't expected to be very good. The professor asked two questions during class, had the students respond, and then displayed the answers and the percent answering correctly. Only slightly more than half of the students answered the questions correctly. Heck, even I knew the answer to one of them, and I have never taken college chemistry.

I sat in the back of the lecture hall, and I can say without a doubt that every student who had a laptop was either on Facebook or else checking their email. If I teach the large lecture calculus, I will have a rule "no laptops in class" with the caveat that I will give special permission to students who come to my office and demonstrate how they would productively use their laptop in class. Maybe some of the students in business calculus can TeX in real-time? Possibly? Maybe they're MathType experts? Unlikely.