John R. Barker paces the front of the lecture hall, gesturing at slides with a laser pointer and explaining to a room full of undergraduates how scientists use data to make predictions about global climate change.
At the moment Mr. Barker, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Michigan, is facing a climate crisis of his own: The atmosphere in this lecture hall is dead.
The students are supposed to be following along with the slides on their computers while taking notes using a program called LectureTools. It was designed to collect data on how students are reacting to lectures—in theory, giving professors a window into what is going on in the heads of their students.
Today the data collection seems to be going poorly. Few students appear to have LectureTools open on their monitors, and even fewer are using the program to take notes. One student is watching a soccer match. Another is surfing message boards on Reddit. Several are wearing ear buds. <Read more.>