My son, who is a sophomore at Bridgewater State College, texted me Friday. He was fuming about an incident in his Intro to Communications class. The teacher has a strict attendance policy: if you miss more than two classes you have 20% deducted from your final grade. My son attends class once a week for three hours (on a Friday, no less). He makes sure he is there.
On Friday, he had his laptop open to take notes. It should be noted at Bridgewater the students are required to purchase a laptop. The professor told Kenny he would be marked as absent for using the laptop to send an email during class.
I’m not sure how this will end. Kenny has an appointment to speak with the Dean of the Communications School. As a parent, I am annoyed that he can be in a Communications course that is being taught by someone who doesn’t know how to use the tools required of the students to teach about communication. As a mother, I am annoyed that Kenny couldn’t just wait till after class to send the email. As an educator, I am dumbstruck that a professor of communications believes this extreme use of control over 19 and 20 year-olds in a 3-hour Friday class is the best way to transfer knowledge. (Surely she understands filters, barriers, etc?)
Those of us who understand the connected nature of the Internet know that it’s possible to pay attention to a lecture and send an email or even IM at the same time. (For the record, Kenny swears he was not IMing, he just had to send an email for his duties as the Student Government Secretary). If this professor was smart, she’d foster the use of a backchannel during her lectures, especially during these marathon Friday sessions. Let the students discuss what you are talking about, be part of the discussion so you can see where you need to adjust your methods.
I can’t do much but encourage my son to use the channels available to him. It’s a real life lesson: sometimes you have bosses that are just like this controlling professor. At least it’s only for one semester. It hardly seems fair that he was actually in class, paying attention and taking notes for three hours, and all that is negated and he doesn’t get credit for it because his duties outside of class required him to send one email.
Here are some questions for all of you:
How would you counsel Kenny to deal with this situation? What should he say to the Dean? How should he act in that professor’s class?
How would react as a parent if you were required to purchase a laptop for your child to attend a state school, just to have teachers discourage them from using the laptops? How would you react if someone was teaching your child the basics of communication theory but they had no insight into the communication methods used by new media? (I have to say for me, this professor’s credibility is definitively suspect.
For my CCK08 friends, how does my son’s situation illustrate the topic of control?
For any of Kenny’s friends who may get here, have you experienced anything similar from this professor?