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On the Inefficiency of STEM Teaching

· Education

On the Inefficiency of STEM Teaching

There is one job Ai has yet to take over, and it's a shame. University-level STEM students are going to class not to learn, but to transcribe professors’ lectures word-for-word. Then, they go to the library for long hours and learn the new material. They are not re-learning, they are learning. 

First, why are students obsessed with transcription? And second, how can we change this? 

I am going to take the liberty to place students into three categories: The handwritten note-takers, the iPad-scribblers, and the noisy computer-typers. 

Handwritten note-takers print out slides before class and annotate them. 

This method is almost parallel to the iPad-scribblers who annotate slides with their Apple Pencils. Writing by hand is known to support active recall of information. 

The problem, though, is that there is too much to write, and too little time to write it, when in the transcription mind-set. 

The third category of note-takers is the noisy-computer typers. I admit I am one of them… We type ferociously on Google Docs, our fingers are nimble and fast, a glance down at the keyboard is a sin. 

Typing has a few strong benefits including the search feature, command-f, and the ability to look back at a precise summary of what was said during class. The main downside is that a lecture becomes similar to the way I read Dracula for summer reading; during a road trip, on Audible, 1.5 speed, while also conversing with friends, and simultaneously driving… 

All of these methods of note taking, especially the third category, detract from the opportunity to learn from the professor. 

So that leads us to our first question — Where did students learn to copy down everything a professor said? Perhaps, from the way they are tested. Students have all learned that a brief comment in class could be the end-all-be-all 20-point exam question. 

And, we don’t want to take any risks because our futures - medical school and graduate school - hyper-focus on GPA.       

So what is the solution? 

Many students received higher marks during Zoom University — whether this is due to hard work, or cheating is another article... 

Zoom learning had its flaws, but it also allowed for long pauses, and many rewatches. Many students would watch lectures twice, the first time to write down everything and the second time to learn it. Or vice versa. 

This method proves very effective, but still promotes obsessive note-taking, and is overly time-consuming.

The solution is to kill the transcription-robot-note-taking ideology. Students should be able to go to class to learn. I think the most strategic way we can achieve this is for students to take notes collectively. If students could jot down only important notes, and confidently know that everything else would be summarized on a Google Doc, we might just see an increase in understanding, a decrease in study-time, and a less competitive STEM environment.

So, while STEM students learn to collaborate, can someone else create an Ai bot to transcribe and summarize lectures so that students of the future will never become robots themselves? As a student in STEM, I sure hope so. 

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