Notice that I said the word “productive.” To be clear, I’m not talking about firing up the latest version of Destruction Paradise. This is about using your laptop in a classroom setting – with your instructor’s knowledge, consent and even direction.
There are a lot of things you can do and ways you can do it that will not only help you but your fellow students to be productive and even help each other out.
1. Create a Back-channel for communicating
Maybe you’re not the type to speak up in class. You’re a bit shy, or you think your questions are irrelevant, or fit into the “dumb” category (despite your instructors first-day assurance that there’s no such thing as a dumb question).
The beauty of computers – especially laptops – is that you can create back-channels for communicating with your instructors in real time.
Assuming your instructor utilizes their own laptop or computer in class, you can create a system – or even use pre-existing instant messaging – to ask your questions. This has the added benefit of not disturbing the flow of the class. Reassure your instructor that they can easily incorporate the answer to your “maybe dumb question” into their lesson without pinning its origin on you.
2. Create a digital comments record
Communication among fellow students is often the key to a successful outcome. (That is, assuming you consider a “successful outcome” to be a “good grade in the class.” If you consider a “successful outcome” to communicating with fellow students to mean something else, perhaps your education priorities are a little mixed up.)
One way to communicate with fellow students – and keep it “on topic” is to create a digital comments record. The best way to do this is to create a document or spreadsheet using cloud-based software, then provide access to everyone in the class.
Provide comments on digital and non-digital work, and invite everyone to do the same.
Including the instructor is not a bad idea – just make sure the comments aren’t of a personal nature.
3. Edit Simple Wikipedia
Sometimes the best way to test your learning is to teach others!
When a lesson is over and you’re in that soft spot between studying till the wee hours and “bring on the test!”, you can display your knowledge by creating or editing a peer-review page!
Simple Wikipedia is designed for explaining concepts, ideas, events and people in simpler ways than the main wiki. And Simple Wikipedia could use the content!
4. Take the time to record assignments
The unfortunate truth is it’s easy for students to let their workload get the best of them. Assignments are added from a lot of different directions, and if you’re taking several courses, inundation can set in quickly. Avoid that by getting organized!
Create a spreadsheet or template that allows you to have all your assignments – their status and their due dates – at your fingertips. It won’t keep them from coming at you, but it makes it a lot easier to track them.
5. Create Study Tools or Reminders
Finding difficulty grasping a concept or assignment? Try to come up with a simplistic metaphor – perhaps a pneumonic device. Then go online and capture a visual representation of such a metaphor. Some kind of trigger for understanding the technical gobbledy-gook. Create a folder for such media. When you’re at your wits end trying to grasp it all – open the file, and watch the knowledge come flooding back!
6. Create a Social Media Stop for the Class
This isn’t about getting that cute girl’s number (although that may be a side benefit). This is about establishing a rapport with your fellow students to create study groups and meet-ups. Or just to commiserate about difficult assignments. It’s a very useful tool, but most in the class are more than likely too reserved to be the one to step up and do it.
You’re assertiveness will be appreciated – and may even get you that cute girl’s number.
Photo: College Library