Tuesday, June 10, 2014


1. Should laptops be banned from classes? I struggle with similar issues.
Over time, a wealth of studies on students’ use of computers in the classroom has accumulated to support this intuition. Among the most famous is a landmark Cornell University study from 2003 called “The Laptop and the Lecture,” wherein half of a class was allowed unfettered access to their computers during a lecture while the other half was asked to keep their laptops closed. 
The experiment showed that, regardless of the kind or duration of the computer use, the disconnected students performed better on a post-lecture quiz. The message of the study aligns pretty well with the evidence that multitasking degrades task performance across the board.
I like the suggestion that the author makes:
I had one small suggestion, which I will implement the next time I teach (and for that class, I will generally continue to have the laptops closed): I will require my students to read some of the studies I’ve alluded to in this post, to help them understand why I’m doing what I’m doing and to get them to think critically about the use of technology in their lives and their education.
2. Why have female hurricanes more deadly? Or perhaps, why you should never accept easy explanations without adequate skepticism, even if they appear in PNAS.
For a start, they analysed hurricane data from 1950, but hurricanes all had female names at first. They only started getting male names on alternate years in 1979. This matters because hurricanes have also, on average, been getting less deadly over time.
The authors have rebuttal (not very convincing to me), but there are other holes. On the whole, the theory has a "compelling" narrative, but hangs on less compelling or ambiguous data.

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