You Can’t Capture Learning With a Camera
Rhett Allain, an associate professor of physics at Southeastern Louisiana University and a blogger for Wired, says he’s noticed students doing something new in his lectures lately: taking pictures.
“You look up at the class and there they are. Students with their phones out. Either taking a picture of the question slide you just asked, or video recording the solution.”
Allain says he doesn’t mind, but he wonders: “Why are they recording stuff (either with pictures or movies)? What is there to record? If they record the ‘answers’ to questions, I think they are missing the most important thing—the process.
It all comes down to purpose of the class. If the goal of the class is to distribute information from the instructor to the students, then I think every single student should bring a camera to class. However, in this case, wouldn’t it just be easier for me to post all my presentation slides or videos of solutions online? Would we even really need to meet in person anyway?
I believe that the class is more than just about giving certain ‘pieces’ of information. Instead, class is more like basketball practice. I am the coach and the students are the players. The goal of physics class is to become better at physics. So, in class we practice physics. We work on problems, we share ideas and we look at interesting questions.
In this case, what would a picture or video do? Maybe a student wants to save a problem to look back at it later. I get that. But if they are saving the problem so that they can ‘know’ that one piece of information, they are going about it the wrong way.
Would it be a good idea to video record LeBron James as a means of getting better at basketball? Well, a video recording by itself won’t help. A video recording along with practice might help—but practice is the most important part.” (Read more here.)
I’ve never heard of students doing this—have you? (Though I do remember classmates taking pictures of the paintings we were supposed to familiarize ourselves with for an art history course in college.) In any case, Allain’s take seems exactly right—a picture or a video of the professor won’t help students nearly as much as actively participating and practicing in class.