Tag Archives: Facebook

Laptops in Lectures – Help or hinderance ?

18 Apr

I’ve just come across a paper that seems like a great way to stimulate class discussion, and to encourage students to think rationally. Get a group of academics together and you will find wildly differing opinion on student use of electronic devices during lectures. Some will see this as ‘the future’ and not worth trying to hold back the tide, whereas others will see is as an excuse for students to play ‘Angry Birds’ or update their Facebook status, and thus something to be banned from lecture rooms. Students will undoubtedly have equally vehement views on the use of laptops/iPads in lectures. This alone ought to be a good prompt for debate, but it becomes more interesting when you throw in some research.

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This is a recently published piece of research suggests that use of laptops in lectures is actively detrimental to learning. It would be interesting to give this to students and see what they make of it. Two things immediately jumped out at me when I read the paper this morning. Firstly it was done with a very small class size (I wonder how easily it would replicate with 300 students ?) and secondly the participants had no incentive to be learning the material presented in the study (so can we really extrapolate to ‘real world learning situations ?).

This paper ought to appeal to students irrespective of the discipline they are studying, and it would be interesting to see what they make of it. I have to admit to secretly worrying what my less technically literate colleagues will make of it 😉

Cherry picking research. Screens of any sort (and Facebook) may be killing you, or at least your children !!!

14 Oct

In my lecture this week I was covering the idea of cherry picking research findings to match a particular view of a research question, as as luck would have it two days before the British press was covered with the ‘news’ that watching TV (or indeed screens of any sort) was seriously damaging children’s health. This story was based on the latest work of Dr. Aric Sigman, who has previously been involved in Putting baby in nursery ‘could raise its risk of heart disease’ and How using Facebook could raise your risk of cancer. I’m particularly interested in the work of Dr. Sigman as he received his PhD from the institution at which I now work (from the same department).

In my lecture I showed the students a TED lecture from Ben Goldacre on the questionable practices of the pharmaceutical industry in cherry picking research results to support there latest product (excellently detailed in his new book ‘Bad Pharma’). I moved on to show them the psychologists could be equally guilty of this, illustrated with the Facebook/cancer story mentioned above. Aric Sigman’s habit of cherry picking the literature has been extensively detailed, but what I find particularly surprising is that he openly admits to selectively reporting evidence to support his own point of view. All of this from someone who’s academic credentials on the surface seem exemplary . Aric Sigman’s own website lists him as a Chartered Biologist, Fellow of the Society of Biology, Chartered Psychologist, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a recipient of the Chartered Scientist award from the Science Council and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine. Interestingly, true experts in the fields Sigman writes about, such as Dorothy Bishop (Oxford Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology) have regular criticised his writings (but have had little media impact). Indeed, Bishop has written a great piece on how to become a media science expert, where you suspect she may have had Aric Sigman in mind.

On the surface all of this could be quite depressing for someone trying to teach students to think rationally, in that it questions the value of science’s much-revired peer-review process (Sigman’s work has been regularly published in the peer-reviewed ‘The Biologist’. However, as a vehicle for encouraging students to question everything they are presented with even if it comes from a peer-reviewed sources an an apparently highly qualified author, it is second to none.

On a more cheerful note, my lecture did produce one gem that I will recycle for years to come. The Daily Mail’s article suggesting Facebook could raise your risk of cancer has a very interesting addition an the bottom, a button to post the story to Facebook and a counter showing that 4565 readers have ‘liked’ the story on Facebook !

One of my students spotted this particular gem of irony, so perhaps what I am teaching is worthwhile !

Bragging on Facebook better than sex ?

13 May

I’m always on the lookout for items that might engage students’ interest, and when I came across this Daily Mail story about ‘bragging on Facebook feeling better than sex’ it seems like I’d found the perfect source material.

As ever, popular science reporting very rarely links to their original sources and in this case didn’t even say where the original paper was published. After a bit of googling I found the original paper, and that’s where this story gets a little more interesting. The paper, from Harvard psychologists Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell only mentions Twitter once, in passing, in the introduction and doesn’t mention Facebook at all even though it’s the headline of the Mail article

I have no idea whether the Mail’s Facebook focus is a result of their interpretation of the paper or possible an overly vigourous press release from Harvard, but what is useful from a teaching perspective is that this story illustrators how important it is to read the original source. A reasonable reading of the Mail story would suggest that Facebook and Twitter had been part of the original , where actually Facebook didn’t appear at all and Twitter only in passing.

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