It came to my attention too late to do anything about it last semester, but I heard from a student or two by accident that a few students were sitting in the back of the class and surfing the net on their computers — and writing e-mail. I’m not sure what you would do (if you’re a professor) or what you’d do if you were a professor or what you’d tell your son or daughter to do (if you’re a parent), but here’s what I decided. Let’s hear your response.
No laptops in class unless you’re willing to sit in the front row and run the risk of my quickly dipping in to check to see what’s on your screen.
It is one thing to have a laptop which, because of the noise it can make, annoys your classmates, but it is quite another to put on the pretense of acting like you’re taking notes and actually be miles away. To attend class is to attend to the lecture and the discussion. I know I’m sometimes distracted when a student is in my office, and I know I feel bad when I am. I would feel awful if the student left and I confessed that I was actually posing as a listener but was actually pondering something I was writing. I’d feel more than awful; I’d feel like I had betrayed the sacred act of conversation.
In the best of all possible worlds, laptops would be permitted. Why? Because students would use them for notes and they’d be quiet enough so that others could also use their laptops for notes. And occasionally they’d bob in and out of the internet to find something useful for the class discussion. In the best of all possible worlds, I say. I learned last semester that not all live in that world.
What amazed the student who told me this was that I was so naive to think my students would do such a thing.
Now I know some will say they can multi-task. That might be true, but the first thing I want to see is if they can attend to the single task of comprehending class topics and participating in the discussion — and if they can’t, then they shouldn’t be surfing the net. And if they can comprehend and participate, then they’ll not want to surf.
If I’m that boring or if the topic is that useless, then students are welcome to get up and leave.
Some feel entitled to do what they want if they have paid tuition; baloney. Tuition doesn’t entitle a student to do anything more than attend. The syllabus is a contract between professor and student. Part of that contract involves participation and attendance.
I will admit, though, that if I found a student on the internet and they were browing Jesus Creed dot org, I just might be sympathetic…
But see this story about Boeing flights.