Media and Information professor Rabindra Ratan knows that in a big lecture, students get distracted and fall asleep.
To keep his students engaged and awake, he skateboards around the class. The potential that he could wipe out at any moment is what he says keeps the students’ attention.
“It’s fun,” Ratan said. “It keeps their attention and it keeps me from getting bored too. The students watch me to make sure they don’t miss when I fall.”
The first time Ratan skateboarded in class was actually unplanned. About three years ago, Ratan said he happened to cruise to school and brought his board in class and as he was teaching, he stood on it and started rolling.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Ratan skateboards in his Understanding Media class. Ratan, often seen on the MSU campus story on Snapchat, glides from one side of the class to the other on his cruiser longboard.
“It keeps my eyes on him which helps a lot,” computer science sophomore Jordan Erfourth said. “I’d say he’s a great teacher. ... He tries to make it as exciting and interesting for the class as possible.”
Ratan has taught at MSU for four years. This year, he teaches three media and information classes but only skateboards in his undergraduate classes, "Understanding Media" and "Science Fiction and Technology."
Ratan started skateboarding later in life, when he was 29 years old, and he does not consider himself a real skateboarder, though he uses his longboard for transportation regularly around campus.
“It’s definitely effective because it’s an 8:30 (a.m.) class and people are generally tired around this time but he’s just a great teacher and he has great ways to interact with the entire class even though it’s 350 people,” business freshman Riley VanPelt said.
Ratan’s main goal is for his students to become enthusiastic about learning. His methods of doing this, whether it’s rolling back and forth on a longboard or occasionally yelling while jumping up and down and flailing his arms, are unusual but effective.
“I don’t think it’s a distraction, it becomes natural for students,” Ratan said. “It definitely enhances their attention.”
Ratan said he’s extremely safe when skateboarding. He keeps it slow so there’s nothing to worry about.
He said as long as students are watching him and not scrolling through Facebook or looking at Snapchat, they’re more likely to look at the slides he has up and pay attention.
“It’s a diversion from the boredom that’s inevitable for the students,” Ratan said. “It makes a better experience for me and them.”