Lecture Stories pt.2

Reflecting on ‘Lecture Stories pt. 1’, I found that it was hard to recall specific lectures but easier to link specific lectures to specific moments within the lecturers personal history.  One specific comment that struck me was the idea of being in a ‘two body position’ where one is physically visible, whilst too thinking entirely separate to themselves.

This got me thinking about the students within a lecture theatre whom look visible within the lecture, but are mindlessly somewhere else. This week, this thought occurred to me when I was seated behind another student who–like most students–had her laptop out, ready to take notes on the lecture. However, the screen flashed with scenes of the latest Game of Thrones episode. She was visibly present within the lecture whilst being mindlessly absent. I often wonder how lecturers feel about lecturing toward a sea of laptops whilst competing with the attention of students who might be drawn to other websites or their phones. Does this impact their teaching style or create a drive to look for alternate methods to keep students attentive?

Now I ask you, explain to me how you feel about lecturing to a sea of laptops, left in the unknown as to how the technology is being used (for the lecture or for other uses)?

If you’re a lecturer and would like to take part of this online discussion about your experiences comment below and find a link here to my Project Information and the intentions of my research.

3 thoughts on “Lecture Stories pt.2”

  1. I’m a peer reviewer for teaching practice at the university, which means that I spend quite a bit of time at the back of lecture theatres, reviewing what’s happening up the front while reflecting on what it feels like to be at the student side, watching rows of laptops substantially looking at other things. I know that I have a preference myself when in the audience for using my phone so that it’s not quite so obvious when I’m not fully engaging.

    All that being said, the experience from the front is quite strange. For one thing, it’s wall to wall branding for a particular company, and I find myself thinking about that. I also notice that heavier social media use has over the last few years increased the likelihood of students chatting quite loudly during lectures, and I think maybe this has to do with a backchannel messaging habit that makes it genuinely hard to remember that other people can hear you when you speak.

    But in the end I believe other people’s attention is their own to give, or not. Making attentive presence compulsory by removing distraction seems to me to encroach on the capacity of the other person to make their own choices.

    But what’s interestingly difficult about your question, Monique — I realise these answers are really more do to with what I think and believe, than how it feels. That’s harder to get at. How it feels is increasingly increasingly part of the out of body nature of lecturing, which is really just speaking to strangers in public about what you’re thinking in that moment, without knowing what they’re thinking in that moment.

    (I was really interested to discover I know the GoT watching person from that lecture, and to be honest I had nothing but sympathy there. We are in a crisis of attentional fatigue, and I don’t think we fix that by lecturing. We fix that by listening.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Monique,
    Great project! I’m a lecturer at UOW and one of my most memorable moments in lecturing happened the very first time I gave a lecture – and I’m not sure if it would happen today given the prevalence of laptops. Thirteen years ago I had never addressed more than 35 people at one time – I had been teaching at an American university where teaching consisted of classes with 35 students in them – and it was more of a conversation, not a lecture. My first lecture at UOW was in the Hope Theatre, a first year class of more than 350 people and I thought I might faint. So I decided to tell them that I was nervous – and to ask them if they would mind smiling at me to help me get going. They did. All of them. It was amazing – 350 people smiling at you – it almost blasted me off the stage 🙂 But I fell in love with UOW students at that moment and I’ve never forgotten their generosity. Would they smile today? I bet those who heard me would. But half of the people might be in the middle of a Facebook conversation – would they hear me? I’m not sure.

    But on the other hand – there’s always another hand – I was talking to a colleague today about a lecture he’d given – he was worried it had been a disaster, I was quite sure it had been great – and he mentioned how he was looking forward to examining the twitter feed to see what students thought of it. That would require being on a device in order to live tweet and it must be incredibly useful to find out what parts of your lecture were playing well and what parts were putting people to sleep!

    I wonder if this is a gender issue too – in nonverbal communication, researchers find that women like to have eye contact with the other person when speaking, men not so much. I remember a video of a corporate boardroom where all the women – all two of them – were craning around the men trying to make eye contact with whoever was speaking. The men were not that fussed. So I wonder if female lecturers might find it more disconcerting to face a sea of computer screens with no eye contact – than male lecturers.

    Sorry for the length of this comment – it’s such an interesting topic!
    Thanks for asking the question.
    Nicky Evans (lecturer in the BCMS degree)

    Liked by 1 person

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