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U. of Chicago Law School Blocks Internet Access 343

Posted by kdawson
from the solitaire-without-a-laptop dept.
Scott Jaschik writes "While some individual professors have banned laptops from classes at various colleges, the University of Chicago law school is going further, cutting off wireless and wired access in its classrooms to confront what officials see as out-of-control Web surfing. The story was first reported in the Above The Law 'legal tabloid' late last month. Students and the university's CIO question the strategy." Things will get interesting when Sprint WiMax service lights up in Chicago later this year.
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U. of Chicago Law School Blocks Internet Access

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  • About Time! (Score:4, Funny)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 18, 2008 @08:47AM (#23116536) Journal
    Let me tell you, they couldn't have made this move any sooner. Some of the law students were having 'independent' thoughts about how the United States legal system should be corrected and it was just causing mass chaos in the classrooms. One student kept reading things online like People Before Lawyers [perkel.com] and began voicing concerns about the plaintiffs and defendants (you know, the actual humans involved) in certain cases. Let's just say that individual had to stay back a few years after having to repeat the class Soul Removal 101 and begin the process over. It was very ugly I think they were only eligible to be a para-legal after that incident.

    The "internet" (or "anarchist-net" as we've dubbed it here) is nothing more than a distraction for students and could never ever possibly be used for learning. I suppose next citizens will want every single state and federal law posted on there so they can try to interpret it themselves! Not on my watch, we here at U of Chicago produce no fewer than 50,000 lawyers a year and we will see you in court if you try to circumvent the United State's legal system's need for them (Sprint, we're watching you!).
    • Re:About Time! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Black-Man (198831) on Friday April 18, 2008 @08:55AM (#23116630)
      Uhhh... exactly why would lawyers want to change a system created by them, enforced by them, and controlled by them?
    • by vtscott (1089271) on Friday April 18, 2008 @08:57AM (#23116668)
      Please, it's not as if they've banned their law students from accessing the internet completely. They're just not providing them with a convenient way to play flash games and read blogs during class. I graduated from college about a year ago, and as someone who normally sits in the back of the class I can tell you that a large percentage of the class would just browse the internet idly while the professor lectured and sometimes even play games like WoW. This got to be very distracting when trying to concentrate, because one would have to ignore movement on laptop screens and frantic clicking. I would hope law students would be a bit more mature and would simply be browsing the news or chatting with friends, but when they're doing that they're definitely not getting the most out of their lectures.


      That said, overall I don't have a problem with students wasting their tuition money (or their parents' tuition money) by browsing the internet in class all day. But this isn't some power grab to squelch independent thinking. These students are free to browse the internet in their dorms, or the library, or the dining halls, etc. It might be poorly thought out, but I think people (or at least you) are freaking out over nothing.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by erlenic (95003)

        I'll stop browsing the web and playing Quake in class when professors start giving a shit and actually forming a coherent lecture. Until then, they're the ones wasting my tuition money, not me.

        And has anyone else noticed that this kind of thing only happens in certain classes? I never once saw someone screwing off in my business law class, where the professor actually new what the hell he was doing, and did it well. But in my intro to business programming class, no one ever paid attention. We only even wen

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Nimey (114278)
          Maybe you missed where parent said your movements are distracting to others, asshole.
          • by dreamchaser (49529) on Friday April 18, 2008 @10:19AM (#23117786) Homepage Journal
            Fewer and fewer people seem to care about how their actions affect other people around them these days. It's not surprising. We live in a 'ME ME ME' society nowadays.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by afxgrin (208686)
              What's worse is when you try to exhibit altruistic behaviour, the people who want to prove altruism is bad or non-existent go out of their way to make you not want to be altruistic. It's really fucked up.

              Then again, silence is defeat people. If someone is doing something around you that's pissing you off, speak up dammit. Some people just don't know it bothers you.

              Now if you continue to do obnoxious behaviour even though people vocalized their dislike, then you're just being an asshole.
          • by JonSimons (1026038) on Friday April 18, 2008 @10:51AM (#23118396)

            Mod parent up!

            Those that sit and surf the net while in class are complete assholes. Don't bother coming to class if you're not going to productively participate in lecture or if you're just going to distract others that can see your screen.

            Not to mention that it's also just blatantly, obliviously, and childishly rude to the lecturer.

            The same things go for talking on your cell phone in confined spaces.

            • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Friday April 18, 2008 @11:09AM (#23118660) Homepage
              The problem is professors who REQUIRE class attendance even if you fully understand the material.

              I've had to take classes on subjects I was already fluent in, such as various programming courses, and in some cases the professors require attendance or they deduct points.

              If I'm forced to be there even though I don't need to be, I'm going to sit in the back and either surf the web or do homework on my laptop. Why should my time go to waste?
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Fallingcow (213461)
          No kidding. About 75% of professors seem to think that it's acceptable to waste the students' time by conveying exactly the same information (and NOTHING more) that they could have digested with 10 minutes of reading via a 50 minute lecture.That's not education--that's a complete waste of 40 minutes.

          At the very least the lecture should be compelling enough to hold one's attention, even if the actual information in it would be more efficiently conveyed in text form; that way, there's at least a chance of a
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Moridineas (213502)

            No kidding. About 75% of professors seem to think that it's acceptable to waste the students' time by conveying exactly the same information (and NOTHING more) that they could have digested with 10 minutes of reading via a 50 minute lecture.That's not education--that's a complete waste of 40 minutes.

            Where did you go to school that this is true? At the college level I don't think I had *1* professor that did what you say they all do. Maybe Intro to Econ which had 300 people, but even that class had smaller breakout groups of 10-15 that had discussions, etc.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by LandDolphin (1202876)
            No kidding. About 75% of professors seem to think that it's acceptable to waste the students' time by conveying exactly the same information (and NOTHING more) that they could have digested with 10 minutes of reading via a 50 minute lecture.That's not education--that's a complete waste of 40 minutes.

            Not everyone learns by reading... Some people require the professor to discuss the textbook material in class to help them understand it. Other people need both to read and to listen to the professor. So
        • I'll stop browsing the web and playing Quake in class when professors start giving a shit and actually forming a coherent lecture. Until then, they're the ones wasting my tuition money, not me.

          Good attitude! REmember, this is UChicago, not Podunk Community college. One would hope that one of the top faculties in the country would give decent lectures!

          FWIW, I took one law course at Uchicago (I wasn't a law student, was sitting in) and every single person in the lecture hall had a laptop. The sound of typing was deafening!

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cfulmer (3166)
          It happens in all classes, regardless of how coherent the professor is.

          Law schools generally do not use a "lecture" format in the classes -- students are expected to participate in a "socratic dialog." My experience has been that such dialogs are much less interactive in classes with web access.
        • I'll stop browsing the web and playing Quake in class when professors start giving a shit and actually forming a coherent lecture. Until then, they're the ones wasting my tuition money, not me.

          I'm glad someone said it... because I was scrolling quickly to the bottom to post a very similar reply.

          Too many classes were taught straight out of the text book that it became standard for people to show up for class with a power strip so everyone could be plugged in.

          It was even more fun when the school recognized the wireless was being disruptive... so a couple of students with evdo modems just setup their own networks for everyone else to share (we all kicked in a few bucks for the service, it was the right thing to do. )

          Sadly most of us graduated with high honors.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nobodyman (90587)

          I'll stop browsing the web and playing Quake in class when professors start giving a shit and actually forming a coherent lecture
          If this is the case, why are you even attending class in the first place? What not just show up for test days and be done with it? It's not like they're taking attendance. Seems like it would be easier to just stay in your dorm and play quake there.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ari_j (90255)
          Most law school classes, especially those that are large enough for you to get away with browsing the web or talking on AIM through without the professor noticing, are taught in some form of the Socratic method. The Socratic method only works if enough people are paying attention to contribute to the learning. "Lecture" is the wrong word to use in describing these classes, and the quality of everyone's education goes up the more viewpoints and, more importantly, the more unique trains of thought get expre
      • As a crappy college student, I essentially self-selected by drinking my ass off for the first 2 years of college. This was reflected in my grades and eventually lead to stint at the local community college where I realized that all my drinking buddies were bad students too.

        If the problem is law students not paying attention, then the answer should be bad grades when they fail test...not grade inflation and a "once you're in, you're in until graduation" mentality.
    • Re:About Time! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BytePusher (209961) on Friday April 18, 2008 @09:40AM (#23117186) Homepage
      I suppose next citizens will want every single state and federal law posted on there so they can try to interpret it themselves!

      The parent makes one really good point. I was recently talking with a friend of mine just fresh out of law school. Aside from learning the language and protocol of courtrooms and some law theory a huge portion of a law degree today is learning to use some very expensive law databases. These for profit databases are the _only_ practical means of knowing the law. It seems to me, that of all the things our government could spend money on, making the law and cases knowable to the general public at an accessible price to everyone would be somewhat high on the list.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by moxley (895517)
      I totally agree with the spirit of your jest - and while I think lawyers can be the bane of existence (except when you need one or they're saving your ass), the real issue in my mind is judges and the institutionalized corruption of some (particularly federal) judges and the legal/legislative system in general.

      I a not saying that there aren't are good and ethical judges, I am sure the majority of them are just that; but there are many judges who are political instruments, who refuse to inform juries of thei
    • by xPsi (851544) *
      Brothels can also be used as a positive education experience [cnn.com], but does that mean we should install one in every classroom? Wait. Don't answer that. Regardless, you must know this is about eliminating distractions in the classroom to enhance independent thinking and focus, not remove it. If students were actually using the wireless connection in the classroom to augment and amplify their lecture, that would be fine. But if you are a student attending a one hour lecture, and systematically can't focus o
  • by FatSean (18753) on Friday April 18, 2008 @08:48AM (#23116548) Homepage Journal
    I can understand banning net access, that is often a temptation during a lecture.

    Am I supposed to go back to WRITING my notes? This is 2008 for fuck's sake.

    • by Cro Magnon (467622) on Friday April 18, 2008 @08:56AM (#23116656) Homepage Journal
      Meh, you kids are so spoiled. Stone tablets and chisels were good enough for me, they should be good enough for you too.
      • by pipatron (966506)

        You had chisels? The luxury! :o

        • by Dog-Cow (21281)

          'Intellectual property is the oil of the twenty first century' -- Mark Getty

          From the very first time I read this quote, the statement has made no sense to me. Oil (petroleum) is a source of energy which is used by virtually every civilized individual simply to remain alive. It provides us clean drinking water, is used to ship us our food, and provides a means to prepare the food. The vast majority simply could not survive without it.

          Intellectual Property (a contradiction in terms) is none of these things.

      • by explosivejared (1186049) <hagan.jared@g m a i l .com> on Friday April 18, 2008 @09:06AM (#23116800)
        I was about to blast you for making a corny old joke, but I looked at your name and thought better of it. I understand your people's proud and ancient culture. We are accepting of all walks of life here. Your writing on stone tablets makes the whole of society richer. I want to thank to thank you for holding against the evils of technology and actually making life worthwhile.

        By the way, GUIs nowadays really are so easy that a cave man could use them, if you ever got the inclination.
        • While correctly applauding the Cro Magnon for "holding against the evils of technology and actually making life worthwhile",
          you forgot to request that the Cro Magnon come and thrash all of the people within your society that actually want to prevent those evils from causing further debasement of your society.
          This would give you more violence to decry, while increasing your power.
          Proper Political Correctness must ensconce wrong things for apparently right reasons.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      There is a certain advantage to taking notes on paper. The attention I pay and the way I take notes when I'm using paper is markedly different then when I use a laptop. I'm usually doing it to be lazy (which may just be me), but I'm a kinesthetic (sp?) learner, which means taking notes and paying attention in that manner helps sear in the information in my brain. It also forces you to occlude information, and consolidate, instead of simply typing nearly word for word (which is usually just by brain saying,
      • Re:Banning LAPTOPS?! (Score:5, Informative)

        by kryptkpr (180196) * on Friday April 18, 2008 @10:35AM (#23118120) Homepage
        I am completely unable to learn while taking notes. I abandoned the practice entirely several weeks into my first university semester.

        If I attempt to take notes, I just enter a weird pass-through mode where information comes in via the ears and out via my hands, but not a drop of it will stick anywhere in between.

        I suspect it's because I'm a visual learner, and when my visual attention is focused on a blank sheet of paper instead of on the person doing the lecturing, my learning ability is severely impaired.

        Anybody else out there like this?
    • Re:Banning LAPTOPS?! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Friday April 18, 2008 @09:39AM (#23117176) Homepage
      Those must be some insanely simple classes you are taking. Not sure how great a laptop would be in real time for writing complex formulas, or diagrams of how things like a thermo system or airfoil work.

      Maybe a tablet that let you freehand sketch accurately in addition to typing. I still think that would be rather clumsy compared to a pencil and notebook.
      • I'm in a Computer Science Masters program...I find that I get along just fine with wordprocessors that allow a mimium of formulaic presentation. The most complicated formulas I've ever done were in algorithm and cryptography classes and MS Oriface did just fine. The text books were full of diagrams anyway...just type in a reference.

        TFA is referring to lawyers...how often do lawyers draw diagrams and complex formulas anyway?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192)
      Why take notes? The material is in the text. You get a copy of the lecture slides from the instructor.

      I always found that taking notes was a distraction, and they were never useful to me anyway. Just paying attention and thinking about the lecture was far more useful.
      • Re:Banning LAPTOPS?! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by edremy (36408) on Friday April 18, 2008 @12:58PM (#23120354) Journal
        Wow- I'm sorry you had such bad professors. I'm hardly a great teacher (I know lots of people better) but there's no way that's going to work in one of my classes- I've sat through far too many "I will now read my Powerpoint slides" lectures to ever settle for teaching that way. I'm not going to do examples out of the book- that's what the book is for. I'll add and delete information from the text as needed- most textbooks skip the interesting bits and have great swaths of crud. Lecture slides*? You've got to be kidding- my typical lecture notes are about 2-3 pages of scrawl in a notebook that nobody but me can read. (And sometimes not even me, to the great amusement of my class) They're only there so that I can remember the sequence of what I wanted to write on the blackboard and to keep all the numbers straight. If you can't do the rest extemporaneously you don't know the material well enough or you're just plain lazy.

        You have the right idea by listening though-don't try and copy everything your prof writes down, just the highlights along with the references to what s/he's talking about. For most people though, taking some kind of note is essential or you will drift off after 30 minutes or so no matter how interested you are.

        *Speaking as someone who's been doing instructional tech work for more than a decade, Powerpoint is a tool of the devil. The first thing you need to say to yourself if you ever think about using it for more than projecting a few pictures is "No", then ago talk to your local IT guy and ask them for a better way.

  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday April 18, 2008 @08:50AM (#23116578)
    If you spend all your class time surfing the web, you should fail.

    If your students are able to pass without paying any attention to you, you must not teach very much in your lectures. And if you don't teach anything, well, why should they pay attention?
    • by compass46 (259596) on Friday April 18, 2008 @09:23AM (#23116986)
      Because actual learning isn't just about passing a damn test. It's about intellectual curiosity and absorbing ideas from others which in turn spark new ideas within yourself. Too many people are simply satisfied with being able to memorize someone else's words without ever having formulated their own unique and creative thoughts. These people pass tests but they're boring as hell.
      • by Alaren (682568) on Friday April 18, 2008 @11:08AM (#23118638)

        I concur. I am finishing my 2nd year of law school, however, and I can tell you that there is serious disincentive to participate in class. Why? Because the professors are not (usually) trying to teach you something, but to trip you up, because they think that their perverted "Socratic method" (really sophistic, but that's besides the point) teaches best by embarrassing students.

        If you're one of those students who prepares and participates in class, you go into the final and realize that you've got 3 hours to dump as much black letter law onto the page as possible. You've spent the entire semester in the penumbra on interesting legal questions while your classmates were surfing the web. Those same classmates crammed Law in a Flash for two days before the final.

        Guess who gets all the peach jobs? Federal clerkships? Good internships? Yeah.

        I've gotten 4.0 grades in most of my paper-writing courses. I'm much closer to the median (3.3 at my school) on final exams, especially multiple choice exams where I'm more likely to see arguable points. When I'm done, I'm going to go get a PhD in philosophy because, thanks to my "merely cum laude" grades at a top-40 law school, I'm not competetive in the legal market as anything more than a writer of wills or an ambulance chaser.

        On top of all of this, if you're in a top-ten law school, you're not going to flunk out unless you flat-out refuse to take final exams and you can have peach jobs anyway.

        The best legal minds out there, in my opinion, are beaten back by the system. I was especially disappointed, when given an opportunity to ask Chief Justice Roberts a question about legal philosophy at a cozy Q&A, that he has no idea what I was talking about. The highest-ranked lawyer in our country is a skilled legal technician rather than a deep thinker.

        Some people will be glad to hear this. But to tie this all back down--actual learning isn't about passing a stupid test. And in this country, we have decided--even at the level of law schools--that actual learning is something we want to force on our students (my law school is discussing similar measures to cut down on internet time during class), but not something we want to reward them for by gearing our tests toward critical thinking. So far as I am concerned, the problem is not wireless internet, the problem is legal education as foisted upon us by Langdell back in the 1900s. That's an awfully long time to go without genuine pedagogical reform.

        • by KiahZero (610862) on Friday April 18, 2008 @04:34PM (#23122996)
          In my experience, being a 2L at a top-ten law school, the reason you're closer to the median on final exams is BECAUSE you're dumping "as much black letter law onto the page as possible." That's what I tried to do my first year, and it didn't end well. This year, I've been focusing much more on analysis, and I did much better, grade-wise.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by porcupine8 (816071)
        If someone can get good grades on your tests and projects by just memorizing, then you're writing bad tests/assignments.
    • by xSauronx (608805)
      I agree with that opinion. However, where I attend (a small community college) the problem needs to be addressed, but it has equally as much to do with bandwidth constraints as it does classroom attention.

      In the computer labs people looking at youtube or myspace together can cause distraction, which is decidedly unfair to students who *do* wish to learn.

      Furthermore, for computer-related classes, bandwidth is limited due to users accessing bandwidth-greedy multimedia content. Some of my teachers *use* the

    • by six11 (579)

      If you spend all your class time surfing the web, you should fail.

      Thanks, I was scanning the replies to see if anybody suggested this. One more thing, though.

      A lot of schools, both at the undergraduate and 'professional graduate' levels are in the business of collecting money in exchange for a degree. Only in a lamentably diminishing set of cases does the degree actually hold some correlation with scholarly aptitude.

      A diploma has become nothing more than a receipt.

      This presents a problem for institutions th

    • by gvc (167165)
      You are making the specious assumption that students are able to make the connection between paying attention to lectures, doing assignments etc. and their final grades. Many have -- through high school and lame courses -- developed a sense of entitlement that they should be able to do OK while ignoring these educational opportunities and merely skimming the Power Point lecture slides the night before the exam. When they fail many become indignant rather than learning to avail themselves of the opportunit
  • by The Zen Cow Says Mu (1209760) on Friday April 18, 2008 @08:53AM (#23116600)
    To the University of Californy. I hear they still have some internets there.
  • by areReady (1186871) on Friday April 18, 2008 @08:55AM (#23116632)
    One would think that an institution of higher education, particularly one dedicated to post-graduate studies, would be able to trust its students to know what was good for them.

    If they spend too much lecture time on the intarblags, it will be reflected in their grades.
    • by LurkerXXX (667952)
      Is having to repeat questions twice because half the class isn't paying attention good for the other half of the class that paid for the class and want to get something productive out of it?
  • What the hell??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Friday April 18, 2008 @08:55AM (#23116642)
    This isn't high school, it's college . The people there are paying good money to be there (well, at least their parents are...). If a student wants to cheat himself of the maximum benefit of a very costly education bu dicking around on the Web during lectures, that should be his lookout. As long as they're not bothering other students, I don't see how this is an issue.
    • by LurkerXXX (667952) on Friday April 18, 2008 @09:02AM (#23116748)
      When lecture time is wasted because a professor has to repeat his question twice for all the students that aren't paying attention, it hurts the quality time of the other part of the class who do want to get their money's worth for the class. It is an issue.

      The folks surfing during class aren't just cheating themselves. They are cheating the other people in the class who are trying to learn.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Applekid (993327)
        The professor should be running the class: why is he slowing it down because of the people who aren't paying attention? Why would he allow people who sleep in class get access to him during office hours? Why would he have one iota of care beyond the students which are engaged and actually, you know, part of the class?

        Aren't we supposed to be adults at that level of education?

        I know I've had a few classes in college that didn't teach me anything I didn't already know but had to take them anyway due to prereq
    • Actually, in the U.S., it is not college, it is graduate school, where the students are receiving a Master's/Doctoral level degree (juris doctor/L.L.B.).

      Parents don't pay for law school, usually. Most students take out loans, or have scholarship, and are paying out of their own pockets, so if they want to ignore professors, its fine with me, its their money, as long as they aren't interrupting the class.

      In order to understand why law students are goofing off in class, you have to understand the structure o
    • by cfulmer (3166)
      Most college classes are based on an ancient idea left over from when books were hard to come by -- the "Professor" would stand at the front of the class and, well, profess. The people in the class would write down what he said. In this sort of situation, you're right -- if you want to cheat yourself out of that, then you're only hurting yourself.

      But, this is law school, which uses an even more ancient idea -- the socratic dialog. In this, the professor will throw out a question, and the class will have
  • Next up... (Score:5, Funny)

    by abolitiontheory (1138999) on Friday April 18, 2008 @08:57AM (#23116666)
    University of Pheonix follows suit.
  • Just let them fail.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Galaga88 (148206) on Friday April 18, 2008 @08:57AM (#23116670)
    I can appreciate the reason they're taking such extreme measures, but wouldn't it be better for everybody if they just let the people goofing off in class fail?

    I always assumed that once you hit college the hand-holding by instructors was supposed to stop.

    Maybe they could use group projects to fix the problem. I know in my college classes I was a righteous dick to any group members who just goofed off on the Internet rather than contributing towards the project.

    I loved my system analysis and design class where we could 'fire' group members for poor performance (and trust me, people did.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Would you hold class in the center of a crowded mall? The very nature of a college, or classroom, is a controlled environment to further learning. Controlling the student's ability to access the internet is no different than the four walls posted around them to keep them from seeing the rest of the world.

      Internet access in the classroom always seemed to me like a boon from the "ignorant IT gods" of hasty wireless implementation by blithering idiots who didn't know how to make it secret and only let profes

      • by Galaga88 (148206)

        Would you hold class in the center of a crowded mall? The very nature of a college, or classroom, is a controlled environment to further learning. Controlling the student's ability to access the internet is no different than the four walls posted around them to keep them from seeing the rest of the world.

        Internet access in the classroom always seemed to me like a boon from the "ignorant IT gods" of hasty wireless implementation by blithering idiots who didn't know how to make it secret and only let professors in the building have access (or smart peoplel like us.). It never made sense that it would continue long past this point, kind of like internet tax freedom or net neutrality. Once people realize its just too good to be true, they're going to stamp down it somewhere.

        But no, controlling internet access in a classroom is not hand holding, its simply a common-sense measure to direct attention towards the teacher, like facing all the chairs in the same direction at the beginning of the class.

        Oh, I completely agree that they have the right to do this, it just seems a little bit of an overreaction to outright disable Internet access.

        I will concede the possibility that people's Internet use in class is so widespread and disruptive to everybody else that this was the best approach to the problem, but that seems unlikely.

        This is speaking as somebody who frequently uses the Internet in class to augment his learning via looking up unfamiliar terms or finding more in depth explanations of things the p

    • by garcia (6573)
      I can appreciate the reason they're taking such extreme measures, but wouldn't it be better for everybody if they just let the people goofing off in class fail?

      You have to remember that the generation that's currently attending various institutions of higher education (the Millennials or Gen-Y or whatever the fuck they are referred to by other out-of-touch generations) have, for the most part, been hovered over by their parents for the majority of their lives and have a lot less personal interest in their o
  • that is a great idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nomadic (141991)
    I think if I didn't have internet access in my law school classes my GPA would have definitely been a little higher.
  • Why would the school or university care if their students are wasting their own time and money by surfing the web in class?

    I graduated before the age of ubiquitous laptops and wi-fi, so this wasn't a problem. Even still we had our distractions and it probably irked certain professors to know that they didn't have the rapt attention of every single person in the room. Generally speaking though, we were left alone as long as our snoring didn't disturb others.

    I wonder if these profs take a roll call before e
  • by Idaho (12907) on Friday April 18, 2008 @09:00AM (#23116706)
    The right solution is, IMO, to simply ban laptops from being open during lectures. It sends the same message as people using laptops during meetings basically: if you can't be arsed to even pay attention (to the lecture, or the meeting), why are you there in the first place. For meetings it may be the case that you are basically "forced" to attend, however this is seldom the case for lectures (at least at my university).

    So I fully understand lecturers who urge (or force) people to make a conscious decision *either* to stay in the lecture room and (at the very least pretend to) pay attention, or if you don't feel like paying attention, want to browse the internet, or absolutely *have* to chat with your neighbour about the previous weekend, can you please just go to the lunchroom next door, thank you so much and don't let the door hit you on the way out. Because it's not like anybody is *forcing* you to be there. If you think you'll do fine by reading the lecture sheets and/or the book, you're free to do so (and in many cases that's perfectly possible, too).

    If you want to take notes during the lecture (the excuse everyone uses), paper still works just fine, as it has for ages.
    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday April 18, 2008 @09:34AM (#23117090) Homepage

      If you want to take notes during the lecture (the excuse everyone uses), paper still works just fine, as it has for ages.

      So does chiselling hieroglyphs on little stone pyramids, but that's not a good reason to eschew new technology.

      The argument against banning laptops/intartubes access is bullshit, because it presupposes that:

      1. Every single moment in a lecture contains vital information.
      2. Students are incapable of multitasking, or determining what's important and what is filler.
      3. That the customer (the student) is wrong.

      It fails every rational test. It's about ego, pure and simple. Lecturers are having hissy fits because their customers aren't a captive audience any more, and they want the old days back, when they could pretend that sleeping students were just listening really attentively. They may as well order the tide not to come in.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Yes, it's completely reasonable to expect someone sitting at the back of the class to not be distracted by having 10 people frantically pounding their keyboards to frag someone, 10 laptop screens showing Quake views, and 10 other students watching porn.

        You fail every rational test.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Idaho (12907)

        That the customer (the student) is wrong.

        This is probably the key to your answer; treating students as "customers". No. The goal of universities is not (or rather, in practice it often is, but it shouldn't be) to graduate as many students/year as possible. It's not supposed to be a "graduation business" where you can exchange tuition fees for a degree (that will hopefully get you a better paying job in the future).

        Rather, students are supposed to be taught how to think systematically, how to approach the so

    • by Atlantis-Rising (857278) on Friday April 18, 2008 @09:43AM (#23117224) Homepage
      Paper works terribly. My writing is not only slow, but it's almost illegible; organizing notes is a nightmare, as is attaching handouts and sending them to other students if necessary, and have you ever tried to run a search on a piece of paper? It doesn't work. All my notes are typed, and I use the internet ceaselessly in class- as an immediate, on-the-spot information resource for discussion and in-depth reference on a specific topic. I would refuse categorically to attend any institution which prohibits me from making use of the two most effective educational tools ever invented, after books.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by kyjl (965702)
        "and I use the internet ceaselessly in class- as an immediate, on-the-spot information resource for discussion and in-depth reference on a specific topic."

        You sir are a rarity.

        Maybe because I'm just a lowly 3rd-year undergrad but the internet is just about NEVER used as an "immediate, on-the-spot information resource for discussion and in-depth reference on a specific topic" in class. 99% of the time it's kids playing flash games and they're usually in the back right next to each other. I don't mind that bu
        • Most of my classes (law classes, by the by) are conducted in a relatively informal, round-table like discussion forum (same with all of my upper-year undergraduate courses, actually).

          The professor both lectures and leads the discussion. However, it is a rare occasion when the professor has at the tip of his or her tongue exact citations, dates, names, or quotations. Some of these they may find in their notes; some of them they do not because the topic has shifted to something related but not specifically

  • What do they care as long as they get their check in the mail?

    FWIW, here [uchicago.edu] is a link to an article from the university's website.
    • What do they care as long as they get their check in the mail?
      Good schools tend to have faculty that cares a lot more about the learning than the pay.
  • It used to be that we only had idiots running the public schools, now it appears we have idiots running at least one university.

    If I were going to school there, I'd transfer to a different school, there are a lot of them in the area. Perhaps U of C should rename itself "Luddite University"?

    Kids, this comment came from a 56 year old geezer. I can only imagine how a young person who grew up with the internet would feel about this, it's like if SIU had outlawed using electricity when I was in college in the se
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wile_e_wonka (934864)
      The problem is that U of C is one of the most respected law schools in the nation. The administrators can do whatever they want--the school has, like, a 5% acceptance rate.
  • Things will get interesting when Sprint WiMax service lights up in Chicago later this year.

    They could build a Faraday cage [wikipedia.org] around the classroom. I've heard that the wire mesh used for some forms of stucco can make a Faraday cage that will block cell phone signals. There's a restaurant in my area where that happened by accident and many of the customers like it and go there when they want to be off the grid for a while.

  • by wile_e_wonka (934864) on Friday April 18, 2008 @09:06AM (#23116794)
    At my law school, students would sometimes view porn on their computers during class--this was very distracting in the tiered rooms, where about 15 students behind the "perpetrator" could see what was happening. It wasn't common but I sometimes heard complaints that "so-and-so would look at porn to try to distract everyone behind him." I imagine it didn't help his own scores either, though. Other students would sometimes send crazy stuff over email during class in order to embarass the person or distract him. Chatting, of course, was rampant during class--that may have been a bit distracting. For example, the teacher will have been silent, and there's nothing to take notes on at the moment, and you hear several people typing like crazy and snickering oblivious to their surroundings--more annoying when that person's right next to you.

    Sadly, after the grades came out, it seemed that chatting and porn viewership had a low correlation with scores. (i.e. I actually took notes but was middle of the road for grades)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Applekid (993327)
      So, how would your school react to a student doing disruptive things like squirting a watergun at other classmates or breaking a stinkbomb or chatting away on a cell phone? The professor would likely demand they leave at a minimum, probably recommend disciplinary action if it's a regular occurrance up to an including expulsion.

      I don't see why they can't treat electronically disruptive individuals the same way they would treat conventionally disruptive individuals.
      • Sure, but those things are obvious to the professor without any mention from the students. The problem is that no one wants to say "Professor, Pedro is looking at porn."
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Reader X (906979)
          It strikes me that the viewing of Internet porn in class can be easily remedied with a water pistol.
  • since many professors in my school had the same view of using laptops in class. I gave the same reasons that they should be a nanny to their class.

    Some time later, a friend who became a professor, instituted the same policy. He always browsed as a student so I asked why he would do something like this. His explanation was simple: "It's for my benefit, not theirs. Most of the time I just don't want to remind myself and maybe even my administration that my classes are boring and useless and can be replaced
  • The lectures need to be more then just reading out a book and more then just a show up to be there thing then less people will be playing games in them.
  • by drhamad (868567) on Friday April 18, 2008 @09:13AM (#23116888)
    I'm a 3L at Northeastern, and they never used to allow internet access in the classrooms. Access points were carefully spaced so that they wouldn't reach the classrooms. Then this year, the University finally came to the law school and said "No. You have to have 100% wireless access throughout the entire school." Basically, the University strong-armed the school into 100% wireless because they wanted to be able to brag to US News /etc that the entire University was 100% wireless.

    The result? Well, I'm sitting in class right now, so you take your pick.
  • Doesn't the law school know that some of of the 20 somethings today can die without a constant net connection? FFS, you could at least try scaling them back to handhelds first!
  • by PhotoGuy (189467) on Friday April 18, 2008 @09:27AM (#23117028) Homepage
    As much as an internet junkie as I am, I don't think the classroom (in general) is the place for it, any more than talking on a cell phone, or cooking a meal would be appropriate. It's a place where you're supposed to pay attention and take part in a discussion, not check your facebook constantly. If you don't want to go to the lecture, don't; get someone else's notes, read the text, or whatever. But if I'm a prof (and I was, part time, awhile back) I'm not going to waste my time interacting with a class that is doing something else at the time.

    And it's not just people doing other things. I did a couple of seminars on Java in its early days, at a progressive local university, that had internet (wired) at every seat. Only a couple of people were using it, but it's awfully hard to get across concepts when people are constantly googling what you say and trying to point out problems or sound smart before you finish getting a point across.

    A lot of the time in teaching, you have to start with generalizations to get the general concept across, some of which aren't 100% correct, technically; then you delve into the details clarifying those points. (As a broad example in another field, teaching newtonian physics as a basis for relativistic stuff.) One smartass with Google/Wiki can ruin that process for the whole class.

    (On the other hand, those who are genuinely curious about something that is said and want to take a quick detour, I could support; but like most liberties, where there's a tendency towards abuse, you sometimes have reduced those liberties in certain agreed upon circumstances. It's similar to the cell phones on planes arguments. There are those that would use it respectfully, moderately, and quietly; but there would typically be a more noticable inconsiderate contingent that would just drive everyone nuts.)
  • Who Cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by morari (1080535) on Friday April 18, 2008 @09:35AM (#23117104) Journal
    They've already paid. What they do during lectures is there business. Plenty of people--in general--can pass classes without paying attention. Many people just go for the wittle piece 'o paper saying that they do indeed know the material, despite already being well versed in it.
  • They must of read my post [slashdot.org] from a few months back and started to implement it. Now all they have to do is ban technology and electricity and they'll be set.

    At least they started to make amends to the music and movie industries, but they have a long way to go.
  • by Prototek (937689) on Friday April 18, 2008 @09:45AM (#23117264)
    Surfing the internet during class is one of the more benign uses of a laptop. Besides actually interrupting class, having someone with a full-screen SNES emulator playing a flashy RPG in front of you so you can see their screen is way more egregious. Seeing someone watch a movie during lecture is also
  • There are better ways to prevent distractions. NetOP makes a product that we've been using in computer classrooms for a while that can restrict students Internet access. In a laptop environment, well, as someone said before, if you're surfing you deserve to fail. There will be a lot of times in life where distractions might get in the way of people's ability to concentrate and they need to manage those...crap, now I fell guilty...back to work.
  • From a selfish perspective, I wish this policy had been in place when I was in law school. I played on-line poker all the time and got nothing out of class. However, I would not have wanted my classmates' surfing to be restricted to save me from myself.

    One of my professors had a good solution: He didn't care if you were on-line during class, as long as you sat in the back row. That way, your screen activity wouldn't distract the other students. Worked out pretty well -- except for me. I sat in the back

  • I suspect that this isn't because the professors are sick of students playing games. It's that the students can do research so rapidly during class that it makes the professor look like an idiot in front of the whole class. A lot of law school requires thinking on your feet. The internet allows research on your feet too.
  • from inside my classroom.
  • From a professor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by supercrisp (936036) on Friday April 18, 2008 @12:13PM (#23119616)

    I teach courses in literature, most frequently poetry, at a major Southern university.

    This semester I've been trying to decide how to deal with students texting in class and with students who use laptops recreationally in class. I haven't come up with an ideal solution, but I'm leaning toward banning cellphones. The laptop thing is harder; many students use them to take notes and for reference, which is laudable. I think I might tell students using laptops to be prepared to e-mail me notes on demand at the end of class so that I'll know who's using a laptop to take notes and who's goofing off.

    So that's background. I'm posting in response to some ideas from the student perspective that I see repeated here.

    Several posters say that students are capable of multi-tasking. This is true, but research [sciencedaily.com] indicates that you're not capable of doing anything well nor of retaining it when you multi-task.

    Several posters suggest that they should be allowed to be the judge of what's worthwhile. I'm all for agency, but if you decide to tune out, you might miss something that would interest you. Furthermore, some material isn't so exciting, and though a teacher should attempt to generate interest, some students expectations are unreasonably high when it comes to the entertainment value of literature. Maybe, too, it would be well to look on a lecture as a form of work.

    A few people say they can pass without paying attention in lectures. That is probably true. I often find myself dumbing down my lectures, assignments, and exams so that students who have tuned out during class can pass. If I fail too many students, my enrollments go down, my evaluations suffer, and I may even lose my job, as I am on one-year contracts and get rehired based on student evaluations. If I do that, for fear of my job, the content of the course suffers.

    Finally, a few people here say lectures are outdated and that content should be online. What about procrastination; would students just shrug off all this content until finals? What about dialog; will all exchange in your life take place via chat? What about seeing others modelling an interest in material only understood or valued by a minority? Do you want to give those faculty who are already distant from students one more excuse to tune you out completely?

    I guess I'll conclude by saying that the small minority of students who text in class or play on their laptops in class are the worse students in my class. They waste a lot of my time asking me about things covered in class or begging for favors and special attention. And they tend to earn poor grades. I wouldn't want to be their boss and certainly not one of their fellow employees. Though as their boss, I could fire the lot of them, and that would be very gratifying.

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