By: Tory Dockree, Tabatha May, and Emily Meilleur-Rivers
Something that might be a little different in university is the use of technology in lectures. We’re sure every high school is different, but in our high schools technology in the classroom was a no-go. Our high school teachers could spot a cellphone under the desk from a mile away and writing notes on a laptop was not a thing. In university however, all that changes. Your learning is up to you here, so for the most part your professors will not be concerned with how you are using your laptop or cellphone in the classroom. In this post, we will address the use of technology in the classroom and how it can affect your learning experience. university classrooms can often incorporate technology in ways that you didn’t expect. That’s why we decided to share some helpful tips and tricks on how to navigate these new tools.
A popular device used at McMaster is the iClicker, which looks like a little remote, and you may need to buy one from the Campus Store, depending on your courses. These remotes are for answering practice questions that happen throughout lectures. Professors make use of iClickers to track comprehension and participation, which can account for 3-20% of your final mark. Professors will let you know if you are expected to answer these questions individually or as part of a group. If you do get to work with others, this can be a great way to get to know people in your classes. We made some great friends through iClickers and we hope that you will too.
Apart from iClickers, you’ll also be surrounded by people using laptops and phones. This can be really distracting and you’ll need to decide if and how you will use a laptop and/or phone. Many students choose to take notes on laptops as opposed to by hand. Something to think about: laptops and phones put the world at your fingertips and make it very easy to lose focus. Multi-tasking is not good for your comprehension and it may affect your level of success in a course.
Here are some tips to help you navigate these distractions in the classroom:
We find that if we sit closer to the front, we are less likely to check our phones because we stay engaged with what the instructor has to say. If you find yourself easily distracted, the front of the lecture hall is often much quieter than the back since there will be less noise.
We all have friends that we can easily have a conversation with… but these might not be the friends we want to sit with in your lecture. When your friend has something to say and they don’t save it until after class, your focus can be derailed. Remember that you are in charge of capturing lecture material, and you can’t do so effectively if you aren’t hearing it.
We know that if we choose to take notes on our computers, we are putting ourselves in proximity to an entire world of distractions. The other benefit of handwritten notes is that you will keep your brain engaged because you will have to write what the instructor is saying in a condensed and meaningful way in order to keep up. Remember, this is how your brain works best!
Notifications can be distracting, and we know from a lot of firsthand experience that it can be difficult to ignore your phone every time it beeps or buzzes. We recommend that you turn off your phone or switch to a Do Not Disturb mode so that you can avoid the urge to get distracted by checking it.
Here are what some of the other Student Staff from the Student Success Centre said about avoiding distractions in class:
Hajirah Mian, Humanities
Don’t be afraid to tell someone to be quiet! When someone is talking near you and you can’t focus on what the instructor is saying, you are probably not going to be able to process the material because you will be too focused on what is going on around you. Quickly mentioning that you can’t hear the lecture material might seem intimidating, but your peers will understand that you want to make the most of class time!
Annie Wang, Science
Sometimes when I get distracted in lecture, I think about how much each individual lecture actually costs—this reminds me that I want to get as much out of a lecture as possible! I also know that anything the instructor says is fair game as testable material and that it’s important that I can recall details later on. To combat distraction, I look over PowerPoints beforehand so that I know what to expect and don’t get lost during lecture.
Jennifer Chan, Kinesiology
When I start to get distracted in lecture, I do a quick sweep of the room to see if other people also seem to have lost focus. When I see that they have, it reminds me that I am not the only one who finds it hard to pay attention and it motivates me because I know I might not be able to rely on anyone else to fill me in after class.
We hope that today’s post has made you feel a bit more comfortable with managing technology and potential distractions. Our hope is that you recognize your ability to take charge of your own learning and tackle this stuff regardless of how you choose to take notes.
About Tory, Tabatha and Emily
I’m going into my third year of Arts & Science with a combination in Philosophy.
I’m going into my fourth year of Social Psychology with a minor in Sociology.
I just finished my undergrad in English and Cultural Studies with a Minor in Women’s Studies. In September, I am sticking around at Mac to start my Master’s in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory.