Friday, November 19, 2010

No open laptops in the seminars!

In the criteria for examination and grading for the course, I have written:

"I will try to take active participation at the seminars into account, i.e. the fact that you have contributed a lot (talked, asked questions and answered questions posed by others) at the seminars might make a difference if your final grade for the course hinges right in-between two different grades."

After seminar 3 this week, I feel that I have a good grasp of who is who (with ample help from your Pecha Kutcha photos).

I therefore feel very confident is saying that I took notice of the seminar contributions of persons A.M., E.B., K.P., N.L., P.W., R.A., R.G. and S.B.

However, I will go one step further in my "intrusiveness"/"laying down the ground rules to support your deep learning of course materials". I can't control your attention, and the fact you don't utter anything at all during the seminar is ok (some might feel shy or that their English is an impediment to full participation), but I actually feel secure in my judgement that if you have a laptop open and your nose in it throughout a two-hour seminar, I will judge you to be a notorious non-contributor to the seminar. Although your body is present and you get points for attendance, you are still not really "there" to the same extent as the other persons there and just as some persons are rewarded for active participation (see above), you will be penalized for active non-participation in the same way (i.e. it might make a difference if your final grade hinges between two grades.

Do note that I am talking only about the seminars here - you are free to surf as much as want on the lectures (just as you are free to not attend them at all). You are not particularly expected to contribute to the lectures except by (passively) listening - as apart from the seminars.

I don't know if this is a controversial decision, but I suspect it might be. I will therefore support my position with a couple of quotes from a book we'll encounter as course literature at a later point in the course:

"In [an] experiment, a pair of Cornell researchers divided a class of students into two groups. One group was allowed to surf the Web while listening to a lecture. A log of their activity showed that they looked at sites related to the lectures content but also visited unrelated sites, checked their e-mail, went shopping, watched videos, and did all the other things that people do online. The second group hear the identical lecture but had to keep their laptops shut. Immediately afterward, both groups took a test measuring how well they could recall the information from the lecture. The surfers, the researchers report, "performed significantly poorer on immediate measures of memory for the to-be-learned content." It didn't matter, moreover, whether they surfed information related to the lecture or completely unrelated content - they all performed poorly. When the researchers repeated the experiment with another class, the results were the same.


"Psychological research long ago proved what most of us know from experience: frequent interruptions scatter our thoughts, weaken our memory, and make us tense and anxious. The more complex the train of thought we're involved in, the greater the impairment the distraction cause."


" 'the brain takes time to change goals, remember the rules needed for the new task, and block out cognitive interference from the previous, still-vivid activity." Many studies show that switching between just two tasks can add substantially to our cognitive load, impeding our thinking and increasing the likelihood that we'll overlook or misinterpret important information."


"What determines what we remember and what we forget? the key to memory consolidation is attentiveness. Storing explicit memories and, equally important, forming connections between them requires strong mental concentration, amplified by repetitions or by intense intellectual or emotional engagement. The sharper the attention, the sharper the memory"


Hembrooke, H. and Singleton, L. (2003). "The laptop and the lecture: The effects of multitasking in learning environments". Journal of computing in higher education, vol.15. no.1 (september 2003), pp.46-64.

Trafton, J. and Monk, C. (2008). "Task interruptions". Reviews of human factors and ergonomics, vol.3, pp.111-126.

Jackson, M. (2008). "Distracted: The erosion of attention and the coming dark age". Amherst, NY: Prometheus.

Kendel, Eric. (2006). "In search of memory: The emergence of a new science of mind". New York: Norton.


  1. sounds good...can you please create some place for uploading the assignment for seminar 4 in bilda?

  2. Ah, I forgot. But it is fixed now, there are three new folders for uploading assignments