Wireless-less classrooms

In a story on Silicon Valley corporate meetings going gadget-less, an LA Times report notes in passing that 75% of law professors at UCLA shut off wireless Internet in their classrooms.  Anyone think this is worth trying at Northwestern?  Students, would full-scale uprisings break out?

I wonder if there’s any hard data on the effects of Internet usage during lecture classes.  For example, it would be interesting to compare class performances pre- and post-installation of wireless internet in the University.

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10 Responses to Wireless-less classrooms

  1. lbsmom says:

    Personally, I think I would have flunked out of college had the internet been available in my classes! That said, however, kids now are so accustomed to instant information that they might not suffer such distraction.

  2. hegemonsadun says:

    Class… without internet!? One could make the argument that internet inside the classroom is good as it is sometimes the only thing keeping students awake (and no LB, this does not apply to your class).

  3. nobamakoolaid says:

    I see students in class typing at warp speed and even drawing complex economic models on their laptops as if the computers are to them what the old fashioned pencil is to me. While the tat, tat, tat produced by the drumming of fingers on the keyboard can sometimes be slightly annoying, it is certainly not distracting to the point of disruption. I have no doubt that most students with open laptops (probably around 70%) are not only taking notes, but taking notes of a far superior quality than my own. It is backward thinking and draconian for professors (and there are some of these at NU) to disallow the use of laptops or other electronic aids as a tool to better understand the material. Remember, this is the first generation that does not know what it is like to grow up without a CPU somehow chained to their bodies. It is not necessarily a bad thing. Technologies are not good or bad in and of themselves, but in how we choose to use them.
    With that said, except in rare circumstances, there is no reason for the other 30% of students to be viewing downloads on You Tube, Hulu, etc. It is distracting and disruptive to themselves and all behind them who can’t help but see their screens. It is also an unreasonable argument that students cannot live without checking email for 90 minutes. Even a full load at NU only requires around 20 hours of actual in-class time. If reasonably possible, the connection should be cut off during classes. Students are students and would bitch and complain on the same level as if you had just taken away their birthdays, but they would get over it.
    The question then becomes, ‘How do you address the problem?’ Perhaps a teckie out there can help with this. NU has a pretty solid wireless network that allows its community to access Mr. Gore’s superhighway from just about anywhere on campus at any time. Is it possible to shut down a specific classroom while leaving the conference room next door connected? This seems like more of a technical problem than anything else.

  4. hegemonsadun says:

    That technology you speak of is exactly what the post is talking about. There is technology that can block wireless reception n a specified zone. While I am very much against blocking internet, there is also technology that can block cell reception, and that makes more sense. There is no good reason why anyone needs reception in class.

  5. nobamakoolaid says:

    Yes, it helps when I actually read the article to which our subject is referring. Having read it now, I still cannot think of legitimate reasons to be online during class. It may be convenient, but it is certainly not needed. Students are not paying 50K/year to surf the net durng class. They are paying 50K/year to spend a precious little time with some of the most talented minds in the country. And the article makes a great point; it is just plain rude.

  6. laurabethnielsen says:

    I always wonder what the students with computers are doing because i have sat in the back of other people’s classes and watched. It is a lot of gaming. Yes, this comes from a scrabble-aholic (NOT in recovery).

    Sometimes – and this has been you Hege — I say someone with a computer, look this up and while Hege always has been paying attention, some OTHERS pop out from behind their screen like I have just dragged them back from I don’t know where — second life? Then they say, “what do you want me to look up?” but if they had been merely taking notes, they would know. it is really frustrating.

    Then, in addition to teaching you are asking yourself, should I ask people to put their laptops away? And you know me, then I am a footnote into a footnote into a footnote and I forgot what I am supposed to be teaching. Everyone else in the class is getting worse instruction from me at that ppoint and worse intereactions from their fellow students 9in a seminar designed to encourage them to learn from one another).

    But, like immunizations, it is hard to explain to some people why something that might be alittle uncomfortable now will help them a lot later in life. And, you know me . . . I went to Santa Cruz . . . people who have no interest in learning and thinking are of little interest to me. If you are just here killing 4 years until you get the degree, feel free to do it in my class, but my real teaching energy goes to people who are actively interested in LEARNING!!

  7. vickywoeste says:

    As LB knows, my experience in the classroom has been pretty limited in the post-Internet age. I did sit in on one lecture in a history course this winter quarter and saw a bunch of screens. Most people were, from what I could tell, taking notes. But some (not many, but some) were doing non-course related crap. I wanted to tap the kid in front of me on the shoulder and ask what was so interesting about what he was doing that he could so completely tune out a really terrific lecture on civil rights and black soldiers as property during the Civil War. But I restrained myself. When I gave a lecture in that same class 2 weeks later I was so totally focused on what I was doing that I didn’t stop to think about what the students were doing. I was talking about immigration, I took questions at several points, and they engaged me. So there was a sufficient level of interaction to suggest that most of them were paying attention. As LB says, if you want to fritter away your time and your money in not learning, that’s your choice. I just don’t think the University should enable that choice by providing Internet in the classroom when there is no pedagogical need for it. Most classes don’t need the Internet for instruction. They use it for infrastructure, communication, and logistics, but not for actual in-class work (at least in the kinds of classes I know about). So shut down the Internet access in the lecture halls and see what happens. I bet the kids who are not there to learn would just go back to doing crossword puzzles with pen and newspaper, just like in the good old days.

  8. nobamakoolaid says:

    One of my professors for this quarter at Northwestern (and in the Legal Studies department, no less) has just inadvertently inserted himself into our discussion. Since his quote was not intended to be a public statement I will refrain from naming him. But based on this excerpt from his syllabus, I suspect he would favor those who would support the electronic blockade of the internet in classrooms. I love his suggestion for analog equipment.

    “Since the purpose of our meetings is discussion, laptop computers may not be used during the seminar unless we collectively agree to search for some specific information on the web. If you need to make notes, please feel free to use analog equipment, to wit: pen and paper. You may digitize these notes at your own convenience outside the seminar.”

  9. laurabethnielsen says:

    When I was in college, after i carved my notes into stone using a chisel, I went home and typed them up using my brother word processor. i printed them with a daisy wheel, three hole punched them and kept them in folders with cross references 9yes mom you can tell the halloween candy story if you must)

    Silly, silly, but actually the process of retyping them really helped the info stick in my mind and i plan to steal this from the mystery LS profs syllabus next time I teach!!

  10. foodgirl says:

    You all should have been sitting beside me in the Kellogg MBA class I audited a few years back on the day/hour/minute that Cubs tickets went on sale ……

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