Wednesday, May 03, 2006

You can lead a student to the internet 

...but you can't make them pay attention to you in class.
Wireless Internet access at universities was once thought to be a clear-cut asset to education. But now a growing number of graduate schools - after investing a fortune in the technology - are blocking Web access to students in class because of complaints from professors.

Herzog first went on the offensive in his own law classes, banning laptops for a day as an experiment. The result, he says, was a "dream" discussion with students that led him to advocate more sweeping changes.

This school year, the University of Michigan Law School became the latest graduate school to block wireless Internet access to students in class, joining law schools at UCLA and the University of Virginia.
One of my colleagues, an occasional reader, has an TA sit in the back of his classroom in a class where 15 PCs are wired to the front of the room for instruction in statistical analysis. You'd think the TA would inspect the students' computer use. Alas, the TA is pecking away on his own laptop.

Nonetheless, most faculty would settle for "continuous partial attention", as the article describes the students' behavior. Someone reported one young man so overwhelmed this term that sits in the front of the class and entertains the rest by having his head snap back as he nods off. Even standing right in front of him seems not to help.