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Is Wi-Fi Ruining College? 370

theodp writes "Over at Slate, Avi Zenilman has seen the real classroom of the future firsthand: Students use class time to read the Drudge Report, send e-mail, play Legend of Zelda, or update profiles on But not to worry - replace laptops with crumpled notes, and the classroom of the future looks a lot like the classroom of the past." From the article: "... when Cornell University researchers outfitted classrooms with wireless Internet and monitored students' browsing habits, they concluded, 'Longer browsing sessions during class tend to lead to lower grades, but there's a hint that a greater number of browsing sessions during class may actually lead to higher grades.' It seems a bit of a stretch to impute a causal relationship, but it's certainly possible that the kind of brain that can handle multiple channels of information is also the kind of brain that earns A's."
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Is Wi-Fi Ruining College?

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  • by unik ( 929502 ) <> on Saturday November 19, 2005 @02:48PM (#14071392)
    Maybe it would be possible to allow access to a local intranet only through the wifi? It wouldnt eliminate any Legend of Zelda, but it might keep the surfing to minimum.
    • Or just let the teacher have a switch on the WAP, with one WAP per classroom.

      Being a teacher that is what id like to do.
      • Only works if your classrooms are a few hundred yards apart.
      • Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by elucido ( 870205 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @03:54PM (#14071763)
        It's not the teachers job to force students to learn, or limit the ability of students who use the technology to learn faster. When you get rid of the internet, students who use the internet to actually research what you are talking about suffer, you end up hurting the students who are bright enough to use the technology properly. You also hurt the technology industry, as sales of laptops and wifi equipment will go down if you attack the main users and buyers of it. It is always wrong to punish the minority due to the stupidity of the majority. This means if the majority is ruining your class by not studying, give them F's, but don't hold others back with your solutions.

        I think access to information and communications should be increased on campus as much as possible so students who actually know how to use the technology can use it. If a student wants to play games and goof off in class, theres a grading system to handle those students.

        • In my view (as a college student), it's the teacher's obligation not to bore me, or at least to provide information that I could not easily look up in a book. If the information the teacher gives during class does not do at least one of these things, I don't think it's reasonable to expect me to pay attention. That is, if the marginal benefit of paying attention is less than the marginal cost, I don't see why I would.

          On top of that, paying attention to boring lectures is just impossible. I wish more comp
    • by jbrader ( 697703 ) <> on Saturday November 19, 2005 @02:52PM (#14071428)
      Why should you want to limit it? This is college we're talking about. These students are paying for the priviledge of wasting thier class time. Thier tuition bought the wireless they can play Zelda during Phys 121 if they want. So long as they keep the volume down so that the student who want to pay attention (and who will end up being thier bosses later on) don't get distracted.
      • "These students are paying"? Maybe in some cases. How many of them have Daddy and Mommy footing the bill with no clue that Junior has found yet another way to waste their money? Or in other cases it is the taxpayer of the State paying their way. I am sure all of them would appreciate the results of their tax money at work.
      • I am in calc 1 and during recitation the kids in the front row, 2 of them, play a networked D&D game. So in the bottom 1/5 of my vision is a row with D&D and the top 4/5 is the TA. I'm paying 1400 bucks for this class and I have to live with a scrollbar at the bottom of reality running the Preview channel.

        I should get a 280 dollar discount :)

        It doesnt matter though. I get just as pissed off when the kid behind me sighs every 15 minutes and tells the girl next to him "how stupid it is" the way the
      • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @04:56PM (#14072064) Homepage
        Why should you want to limit it? This is college we're talking about. These students are paying for the priviledge of wasting thier class time. Thier tuition bought the wireless they can play Zelda during Phys 121 if they want. So long as they keep the volume down so that the student who want to pay attention (and who will end up being thier bosses later on) don't get distracted.
        One strange thing about your logic is that it's all based on the supposition that the student is the one paying. At an expensive private school, it's probably Mommy and Daddy who are paying. I teach at a community college, so in my case, it's the taxpayers who are paying essentially all the cost. Why should the taxpayers subsidize people to play a MMORG?

        Another problem with your logic is that you assume bandwidth is as free as the air we breathe. It's not. AFAIK, every college and university in the U.S. these days has an acceptable use policy for their network. I've had a student pornsurf while his female lab partner (a Muslim woman who wears a head scarf) sat there uncomfortably. I made the student meet with me and the dean, and it was quite interesting. My attitude had been that it was pure and simple sexual harassment, but the dean simply treated it as a violation of the AUP. (The guy had also cheated off of her exam paper.)

        Finally, my feeling as a teacher is that I do have a right to ask students who are losers not to distract from the educational experience of the people who are really there to learn. It really is distracting to have this sort of thing going on. However, I structure the rules of the course so that nobody has to stay for the full 1.5-hour period if they feel they aren't learning anything. I give quizzes and collect homework during the first 5-10 minutes of class, and after that, they're free to leave without any penalty to their grade if they feel there's a more productive way to use their time.

        Maybe one reason this kind of thing becomes an issue is that the standard chalk-and-talk lecture is simply a bad way to teach, but a lot of professors don't want to admit it. The solution is to use better teaching techniques --- techniques that get the students actively involved. The idea of lecturing came from centuries ago, when books were so expensive that students couldn't afford to buy them. (I mean really, really, really couldn't -- the disproportion between incomes and the cost of books was an order of magnitude worse than it is today.) So the teacher would read the book out loud, and the students would take dictation, writing down their own individual copies.

    • by Janitha ( 817744 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @02:59PM (#14071458) Homepage
      By personal experience as a College Student who use wifi in almost every class, I don't think how I can go without it. I think it has greatly improved my learning experience since its like a library in front of you. For example, say your in a ethics class and they bring up the topic of some act or case, just google or use wikipedia to look it up. Your in physics and you need a quick reference or more graphics and illustrations on a certain theory, simple: just search it. If it wern't for the laptop/internet, I (or anyone) would ever bother to look that information up later.

      And what about the times when the prof is going on and on about things that you have clear understanding, honestly everyone was just falls asleep or skips the class, or you can use that time to look up some information on the subject/topic the prof just talked about or is about to talk which is much more efficient use of the time while still keeping a ear open to see if anything interesting is said be the prof. This helped me understand the lectures and material much better (than those days when I don't take my laptop).

      If you are playing games or surfing stupid websites that the students choice and you shouldn't blame wifi or laptops for that, the student is responsible. But if you just take wifi out of the class room, then all the students who use internet connection in class rooms are the ones who will suffer.
      • A friend of mine, who is the principal of a school, allows seniors to go off campus when they are not in class. He knows that some students will abuse it, but he feel's thats not an excuse for not allowing the others. He simply has to take care of the people who abuse it. The same goes with any freedom. There are plenty of people who abuse things like WiFi in the classroom, but that doesn't mean you should cut it off for everyone. If it's a problem, you should deal with it, not just treat the symptom.
    • Thats bullshit (Score:2, Insightful)

      by elucido ( 870205 )
      Just because some people use the internet to look at stupid stuff, shouldnt mean you should eliminate the nternet for people who actually use it to research stuff for the class or for other classes.

      I think removing wifi is as stupid as removing the library to prevent people from stealing books. If a student is too stupid to use their tools to succeed then they shouldnt be in college to anyway. Wifi is just a tool, just like a notebook, a library, or a teacher giving a lecture, all tools to help you get a d
    • You can't just block the internet all the time. The only way to fix it, is to automatically restrict wifi access to the local intranet during the times you are scheduled for class. Although it would also mean no wifi if you skipped class. Honestly I think no tech solutions are best. In one of my classes anyone with a laptop had to sit in the 2nd to back row so their screens wouldn't annoy anyone else, and a TA would sit in the back row watching them to make sure they were taking notes and not surfing t
  • "Browsing Slashdot" is omitted.

    Partly educational perhaps?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 19, 2005 @02:50PM (#14071410)
    so long browsing sessions drop grades (because the students are ignoring the professor)

    and short but frequent sessions increase grades (because students are looking up wtf the teacher is talking about)

    Seems pretty strightforward.

    • A few years back my grandfather was teaching a class on at least several occasions a student with a laptop would look up information he was lecturing about and then add current examples, other information and the like. It took my grandfather by surprise a bit, but he said it was actually quite beneficial overall. Just like all technologies, it can be misused, but it can also be put to good use.
  • by MLopat ( 848735 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @02:50PM (#14071412) Homepage
    FTFA: "There are about 100 students in the Columbia University lecture I'm currently attending, and about 10 have laptops. (The lecture consists mostly of grad students in their late 20s, so the ratio is a bit low.) I can see four screens from here; only one person is actually taking notes. Another is looking at the registrar's Web site. The other two keep checking their e-mail."

    So the real question is, would these same students pre-occupy themselves with something else if they didn't have their laptops open to browse? Its reasonable to conclude that they have a limited attention span as it is, so whether they're sending email, talking on an IM client, or checking out the hot blond two rows down, they weren't going to being paying attention in their English 101 lecture anyways.
  • It's a tool (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Turn-X Alphonse ( 789240 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @02:52PM (#14071423) Journal
    The internet is a tool just like a notepad. I can sit and doodle all day in my notepad instead of taking notes if I wish to. Does that mean notepads are suddenly bad for studying?

    The problem is peope abuse the tool to do other things, so they lose focus which ends up making them worse off in the long run.

    Wifi is not the problem here, giving it to people who want to dick around is.
    • Re:It's a tool (Score:3, Insightful)

      by KylePflug ( 898555 )

      I'd hate to see laptops taking away because some idiot is abusing them. That idiot will fail the class; he would have failed the class without it too, if only by sleeping or reading a book or cheating and getting caught or whatever.

      I bring my laptop (an old Toshiba Tablet PC) to every class I go to at my college and usually have it on my desk for the majority of the class time, unless it's "Listening to Music" and we're watching some DVD or something. Have I used my tablet's wi-fi to hop on facebo
    • I can sit and doodle all day in my notepad instead of taking notes if I wish to. Does that mean notepads are suddenly bad for studying?
      To me, that's somewhat funny because it's true... []
    • Re:It's a tool (Score:2, Insightful)

      by nSpace ( 181520 )
      There's only so much enjoyment you can get out of doodling. The Internet presents unlimited possibilities for distraction. You can't really compare a notepad and the Internet.

      Really, what possible use could the Internet have when you are supposed to be paying attention to the Prof? You don't need to be checking email, surfing websites, or posting to your blog. You need to be paying attention and taking notes.

      I say keep the laptops, take away the Net.
  • Once the "point of information intake benefit" is reached, the continuance of information intake is detrimental to success because there's no time left for action. Since you're reading Slashdot, you like to take in information, but if you're just a lurker, you're not taking any action [at least not here] with the information you take in. The world pays, based on results that it sees, and a full brain looks the same as an empty one to the average employer or professor.
  • For me... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Chickenofbristol55 ( 884806 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @02:52PM (#14071426) Homepage
    ...I would be tempted to play CS:S in class. Doubt that would help my grades much.

    professor "You see, you must first find the limiting reagent, then..."


    professor "What in god's name was that?"

    *raise my hand from the back of a crowded study hall* "Me pwning"

  • Run a chat room (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @02:52PM (#14071427) Journal
    If everyone has a computer(in some labs, and in the future), a monitored chat room can help learning a ton. For example: The teacher says something obscure, and the students want to know what it is, they can chat among their peers instead of disturbing the lecture. If no one knows in the class, they can interrupt the teacher. All talking would be logged so the teacher can see who's abusing the system after class.
  • by PrinceAshitaka ( 562972 ) * on Saturday November 19, 2005 @02:53PM (#14071431) Homepage
    Wi-Fi wont ruin colleges, just the students in them. If a student chooses to surf in class, that is the students problem, not the schools. It will still take the same intelligence and smarts to get decent grades. Some students will be able to surf in class. Many others wont. I was able to skip hundreds of hours of lecture time and still got out with a degree.
    • It takes intelligence and smarts to get decent grades? All I noticed was lots of studying stuff (the bad way: the way you forget it a few weeks after the test). Perhaps we should fix our education system so people actually learn something before we blame students for not paying attention.
  • by jwachter ( 319790 ) <> on Saturday November 19, 2005 @02:53PM (#14071433) Homepage
    I'm a student at Harvard Business School, where they have a fairly interesting solution for handling this problem. While every campus building has wireless access, all the access points in the classroom buildings require a web based log-in that checks your student ID versus your class schedule. If you're scheduled to be in class at that moment, you are denied wireless access to the internet (in any classroom building).

    Draconian, perhaps, but very effective at keeping us focused in class.
  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @02:57PM (#14071450) Journal
    The casual relationship between multitasking and higher grades is no big news. People with ADD get bad grades... duh. Seriously, this is only one incidental aspect of a well known relationship. The real news will be when browsing/surfing is supporting or augmenting students in ways that were not predictable.

    The really good part of information tools is that they allow us to multitask on our own time, not the time schedule of others. The article hardly lends any time to whether or not the students who are surfing in class know the material well already or not. The wide variety of subject matter knowledge held by the students determines their own personal need to listen intently or not. If they don't require it, multitasking is a good use of time, and students who can multitask well will make good grades whether there is Internet access or not, likewise, students who cannot multitask will not make as good of grades.

    Multitasking in a school environment means that you don't have to shut off the parts of your thinking that are not fully focused on the matter at hand.... you may be in a poli-sci class, but your thinking is on a project that you are working on for another.

    There are three kinds of lies... lies, damned lies, and statistics!
    • The casual relationship between multitasking and higher grades is no big news. People with ADD get bad grades...

      Among several incorrect assumptions, you suppose that people with ADD can't multitask. I don't pretend to know whether this is a problem in general, but I know of one person who is diagnosed with ADD and is an amazing multitasker. He, however, cannot focus very well on one task for long periods of time though he has figured a way around that problem.

  • My experience at WPI (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bagels ( 676159 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @02:57PM (#14071454)
    In my one class where nearly everyone uses a laptop (that's IMGD 1000, part of the Interactive Media and Game Dev major) I've noticed that several of the students are browsing, even playing games during the lectures. Whenever I brought in my own laptop, I got sucked in myself; it was sometimes helpful to be able to bring up online articles relevant to class material, but I usually got completely sidetracked and lost the thread of discussion. I made a conscious effort to ditch the computer, and it's greatly improved my focus in-class, though I still get occasionally distracted by the fellow playing Lunar at the end of the row.
  • by Nept ( 21497 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @02:59PM (#14071462) Journal
    use class time to read the Drudge Report, send e-mail, play Legend of Zelda, or update profiles on

    Thus preparing them for the corporate world?
  • If you're not there to learn, you won't.
  • Effects on others (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rmcd ( 53236 ) * on Saturday November 19, 2005 @03:01PM (#14071473)
    I teach and find laptop abuse to be an issue. The Slate article misses the real problem, which is not that the student checks out (the article correctly notes there are lots of ways to do this), but that others can see the laptop screen. Suddenly there is a group of five students giggling about something. I've had students complain about the distracting laptop usage of others.

    I don't know what the right solution is, since I think that in theory it's fantastic for students to have a laptop to take notes, perform calculations, and look up related issues during class. But it's a real problem when the abusers distract a group of students. I suspect that shutting off internet access during class is the best practical solution.
    • I've thought of this quite a bit myself, as I come from a school [] which furnishes laptops to all students and faculty and has complete wireless coverage. Also, I hope to be a professor someday myself (hopefully, grad school here I come!)

      Personally, I wouldn't mind if students waste their time in my class, but as you say, if they start wasting others' time (more often than not against their will, I've been sucked in by someone playing Quake 3 across the room) I'd be royally pissed off. There are plenty of re
      • I guess I will have to make sure I can wield power like that before doing so however, I don't know what the policy usually is for asking students to leave classes at the university. (Though I do know that at my school, my fiancee is asked to leave quite often for coughing because the professor is a germaphobe. Heh.)

        Don't know about where you are ... but I am a lowly grad student teaching physics labs, and my department has told me time and time again that I have every right to kick a student out of class

    • Filters? (Score:4, Informative)

      by xant ( 99438 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @03:38PM (#14071661) Homepage
      What do you think of something like this monitor filter []? Maybe make it required for students who wish to use their laptops. Seems like most of the time, the laptop users would prefer this anyway; I know on the few occasions I've had a laptop in a lecture setting (conferences, not schools, but basically the same thing) the laptop wasn't distracting, but the ability of other people to read my screen made me uncomfortable, even though I was doing innocuous things.
      • That's an interesting idea. Thanks! I wish they were a little cheaper, but I'll raise this the next time I'm talking with the computer folks. Possibly the abusers would opt for it.
  • Job (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mikejz84 ( 771717 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @03:02PM (#14071480)
    If professors can get away with just giving the powerpoint enclosed with the textbook, we should be able to get away with going online.
  • Killswitches. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by saintlupus ( 227599 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @03:02PM (#14071481) Homepage
    Speaking as someone who works in college IT, I've heard from more than one colleague that the same faculty clamoring for wireless and technology in every classroom are the ones now clamoring for killswitches so that the students can't use it during their classes.


    It's sort of like when we put projectors with laptop hookups in all of the classrooms in nice, integrated bunkers and then they decided that the laptops were too heavy to carry, and they wanted desktops permanently installed in there are well. Whee! I'll never understand why a professor can carry three different NPR tote bags chock full of paper, and the four pound iBook they've been issued is the breaking point.

    • Oh it's quite simple, when you look at it with enough cynicism.

      By blaming the lack of adequate equipment in the room for a lack of productivity, the faculty can claim that it is not their fault they are not being effective teachers. Which misses the fundamental point: all the IT-provided bells and whistles will not make someone a better teacher; it takes work, skill, and dedication, just like everything else in life. (I'm not banging on teachers specifically here... we're all just as guilty. I mean, if

  • The last 12 grads I interviewed were all top ranked grads from "great" universities. In terms of business sense, they were morons.

    One even thought he was smarter than I was, and said so. $100K in debt, 5 years lost?

    I've seen what my younger brother and older cousin got from college: unemployment and bad attitudes.
    • One even thought he was smarter than I was, and said so.

      Oh dear... I wouldn't go bragging about that in a public form. That was his way of telling you that he'd already decided there was no way in hell he'd ever work for you.
    • by Urusai ( 865560 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @03:31PM (#14071634)
      When I was a lad, working at the shoe factory at 12, I didn't have none of them fancy "educations". We had to work hard, and maybe at the end of the year, Mr. Jones would give us an extra tuppence for Christ's Mass. I worked my way up the corporate chain, first as senior tongue stitcher, then journeyman heeler, all the way up to lace inspector, and I did it though hard work, gumption, pluck, and sheer moxie.

      This youth of today expects their fancy degrees and book learning to get them a big shot job in the city without the perserverance and elbow grease we old-timers had to invest. Why, just t'other fortnight, this young whippersnapper came strutting into the factory like Little Lord Fauntleroy, looking for a job. When I asked him if he was willing to dedicate his life to the High God of Shoes, to prostrate himself before the Terrible Majesty of Zapato, He Who Shods Man, I swear a slight look of unbelief crossed his naive visage as he politely excused himself and fled the factory, no doubt to go read another book on how to be mighty smart but ignorant of the ways of the world. Pfeh! Run ofta yer Ivory Tower, you Harvard dandy!

  • by Whatchamacallit ( 21721 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @03:03PM (#14071486) Homepage
    Not the Universities nor the Professors problem...

    If I were teaching, I would tell everyone that I get 'paid' and the school gets your money whether or not you pass or fail. Grow up, this is college. Look to your left and look to your right, next semester either one or both of those individuals will no longer be here.

    In order to pass this course, you will need to do all of the assignments on the syllabus and turn them in on time. You will need to attend all the lectures and read the assigned reading. You will need to spend time studying and researching your own answers and you will need to participate in class discussions. You will get out of this course what you put into it.

    Now we have some very cool technical toys to share and use in this course but it's up to you to not let them get in the way of learning. So go ahead, surf away and play stupid games, chat with your friends, take a nap on the bean bag chairs, etc. But if you fail this class, it's your own darn fault. If your parents are paying your way, then you will have to explain to them why you failed. There is no such thing as a parent teacher conference in the real world!

  • by mpoulton ( 689851 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @03:03PM (#14071487)
    The Cornell researchers studied browsing habits in classes by giving students school-owned laptops that were known to track their browsing habits. Would people browse normally under those conditions? Also, the students being studied were probably not technophiles -- otherwise they would have their own laptopts, and not likely participate in the study. Technophiles in general have very different computer usage profiles than the general population. In my experience, it seems we are much more better at multitasking, and are better able to use computers while simultaneously interacting with the rest of the world. It looks like this study did not actually investigate how *current* laptop use by students who own them affects performance. Instead, they investigated how the *addition* of a school-owned, monitored laptop to a non-techy student's repertoire changes their performance.
  • by Starji ( 578920 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @03:04PM (#14071492)
    I can relate somewhat to what the writer of the article is trying to say. The computer in the classroom (especially with internet access) is just a distraction. In my experience with my own laptop, it's often true. If I have the laptop out then I'm usually not paying all that much attention to the professor. When he's talking about ip packet fragmenting, I'm playing Earthbound, or just browsing the web. Here's the trick though, I'm not doing this in classes where I actually want to pay attention. My networks class for example, is an example of a class where I don't want to pay attention. The professor will go on and on about something not related to the course materials for the day, and I've had a fair amount of networking experience in high-school that whatever concepts he throws out I understand immediately, so the rest of the lecture ends up being pointless. In contrast, in my Senior project class we go over things that are new to me and are useful to me in a format I don't fall asleep right away. And it's not like the computer and internet in the classroom are just a distraction. I have used it to look up facts and extra information about the lecture before.

    So is wifi ruining college? No more than any other service provided on campus. I can still shut down the laptop and not pay attention to the professor the old fashioned way, like reading a book, or sleeping. A boring professor is a boring professor whether there's wifi or not. It's my choice to use it knowing the consequences of my actions may lead to lower grades, and as long as I'm not disturbing or otherwise interfering with my classmates who actually want to pay attention, I don't see the problem.
    • Bingo.

      This is the real problem. Go to a class where the professor is engaging and entertaining, where the material taught is relevant and the students are engaged. You'll notice a lot less people slacking off.
    • I agree. I bought myself a laptop for University, and take it to all my lectures and tutorial sessions. During some of the classes (I'm studying Computer Science), I already know the material; there's absolutely no point in my taking dedicated notes on basic HTML. On the other paw, Analytical Modelling is a part of my course I've never studied before, so I earnestly take notes.
  • GASP. (Score:4, Funny)

    by DakotaK ( 727197 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @03:06PM (#14071499)
    From my own expereince, every single person that brings a laptop to programming lectures is either talking on AIM, surfing Facebook, or playing a game. This really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone - the internet is more fun than doing work or paying attention. .gif []
  • What is the difference between students reading the paper, doing the crossword, or sleeping during class (ie, what went on when I was in school) versus Internet use during class? Both scenarios just represent students not paying attention. In general, students who don't pay attention get lower grades.

  • by vga_init ( 589198 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @03:20PM (#14071568) Journal

    I've been toting my laptop off and on since high school, and until a few years into college I was one of the only people in my class to be doing this.

    In high school, I used it to take notes; I can type quite a bit faster than I can write, and they come out looking a bit more organized and legible than they otherwise would have. Also, having a computer for some reason would help me stay focused; I was practically raised on computers, and you might say it is sort of a comfort thing. Whatever it was, it helped me study.

    In college, things became more interested. I started off taking primarily computer science courses. I taught myself to program when I was younger, and this process involves a great deal of fiddling around with new concepts in order to fully grasp them. I would sit in class during the lecture compiling away, doing examples that the instructor was giving me and seeing how I could push the envelope. On one occasion I was even able to correct my instructor on the usage of particular syntax.

    Being the kind of person that learns scientifically (I like to observe the process and alter test conditions to evaluate the results), a computer is a very nifty tool for giving me the means to gasp the material during the lecture. While my original methods did not employ the use of wifi, having connectivity would be useful in case I needed to look up or download something on the fly; I would just have to be disciplined enough to turn off my instant messenger and mail client so that I don't get too distracted.

    Usually I am opposed to computers in the classroom because of such things as funding and underemployment (of the machines themselves), but when the computers are owned by the students themselves, then I'm able to see more benefits (if you're going to pay a grand for a gadget, you're going to learn how to use it). Whether the computer ultimately helps or hinders your classroom experience depends on how good of a student you are, and typically good/bad students get the grades they deserve with or without wifi-enabled computers.

  • As an instructor, I generally discourage students from using laptops for notes. I teach philosophy, so it is generally more important to be listening and occassionally jotting down notes than it is taking dictation about an endless series of facts. (YMMV in other fields.) Students that bring laptops (and who do listen) tend to have gotten lots of bits of fact but generally have no clue how to use them to create integrated knowledge.

    Of course, I also encourage my students *NOT* to come to class if they ar
  • What does this do to P2P user tracking. Are campuses as good at identifying Wi-Fi P2P users to the RIAA as they are dorm room wired users?
  • My school has campus wide wifi as well as power and ethernet jacks in most of the rooms. About half the rooms are combination lab/classrooms where every seat has a computer in front of it. Most teachers seem to realize that computers will be used for games and generally do not seem to care as long as the people playing the games are not bothering other students. I can recall well a discussion in my Sociology class a couple of semesters ago. I was participating in the class discussion fully- answering q
  • I'm a Cornell University student, and I use my Powerbook during many of my long lecture classes to browse, as well as take notes. I'm in the film program, and most of my classes tend to be 2-3 hours long, and occasionally my brain needs something to think about besides the relatively dry theoretical content that's discussed.

    I've noticed that when class discussions get interesting, heated, or something other than monotone, and I have an interest in actively participating, I close my laptop and listen mor
  • From the article: In any event, even when multitaskers can't keep track of the professor, it probably doesn't matter much. In lectures at large universities, especially in the humanities and social sciences, class time is usually taken up by the broad outlines of the subject. The real learning occurs when we bear down and pore over the hundreds of pages assigned every week....

    As someone who has been through graduate school, and taught there, and have a spouse and siblings doing the same, I'll say this: th

  • Legend of Zelda

    I didn't know you can play Legend of Zelda online. That's what I've been keeping the N64 around for. See what I've missed by not going to college lately.

  • At my university, the WiFi network is only in certain building. It's noticably absent from buildings with lecture halls. Let's be honest with ourselves though. People who fuck off, are always going to fuck off. The exclusion of a WiFi network -- which is rather useful to some -- isn't going to change this.

    If WiFi was unavailable, we'd just see an annoying increase in the use of cell phones. I for one would rather hear the clicks of trackpads, than the jabbering of cellphone users.
  • The kind of brain that can handle multiple channels of information is the type that earns As

    The kind of brain that can handle multiple channels of information is called "female". This so it can remained focussed on finding fruit, roots and mushrooms, comminicating with the social group, watching for danger and keeping an eye on the baby hanging off the left nipple.

    The other kind of brain is designed to focus intently on one task: To determine its changing position in space, deduce its future actions, th

  • Placing blame (Score:2, Insightful)

    Don't blame the technology, blame the person (ab)using the technology. They know what they're supposed to be doing in class. They know that they're paying to be there. They're choosing to use the technology versus paying attention. A little self-discipline goes a long way.
  • Pay attention to the content. Measure *which* sites students spend the most time browsing and compare that to their grade average, you'll see much more meaningful data.

    For my part, the internet has always been first one big reference library, and everything else second. I can guarantee one thing - the "A" students sure as HELL aren't the ones visiting!

  • Multi-tasking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @03:37PM (#14071657) Homepage
    "...but it's certainly possible that the kind of brain that can handle multiple channels of information is also the kind of brain that earns A's."

    It's also certainly possible that the kind of brain that THINKS it can handle multiple channels of information is also the kind of brain that can't.

    Since none of them have your full attention, doing four things all at once makes the odds pretty good that all you're doing is screwing up four things at once.

    Of course, I expect plenty of people here are going to tell me they're experts in this regard... much like the "90% of all drivers think they're above average" statistic.

  • I have been raised arround computers, and found all of the computer classes under say 200 useless and a waste of time...that is 1 year of computer classes covering, for example, the differance between HDD and ram, workstations from servers, dot-matrix v laser printingand so on...I surfed because I was sick and tierd of being the guy who constantly answer the "what does that mean? " questions as the teacher I LOOKED like I didnt give a shit...I cared, did the woork and did good, but I surfed,
  • Depends on class (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kiaser Wilhelm II ( 902309 ) <> on Saturday November 19, 2005 @04:03PM (#14071818) Journal
    You can't make blanket statements like this about laptops and grades..

    Some classes require lots of focus and attention.. think of math. Professor is spending most of the time doing proofs, examples, etc. You can't goof off on Slashdot at the same time the Prof. is doing an example of something and understand what he is doing.

    Other classes just present casual bits of information that can easily be summarized as the professor goes along.. this is like a humanities class, for example. I just jot down details I think are important while I sit around and read Slashdot or whatever. Yes, and truthfully, I don't pay as much attention because I don't find it interesting in the first place. I'm not going remember a single thing I learn here by the time next semester rolls around.

    I will also note that I have ADD (perhaps computers are the cause, or perhaps my ADD causes my obsession with computers). If I dont bring a laptop, I will have no source of distraction. My mind will tend to wander quite a bit and I'll just never be able to have any concentration whatsoever (this is why I tend to do poorly on tests in general, because I lose focus rapidly - something no one understands or believes). At least with a laptop, I can sort of satisfy my desire to be distracted for brief periods of time while not totally losing focus of what I need to learn from class. In this sense, laptops are a godsend for me.
  • Sure, it could be useful having an extra source of reference, but I can always write down terms and concepts to be looked for later.

    Ideally, the device that would most benefit me in class would be electronic paper: a 16 color device, thinner, lighter, and with much better battery life than current Tablet PCs, with both a stylus and a keyboard (I personally would prefer physical and on-screen, but on-screen alone would work too). Its primary use would be to take down and organize notes, but I could imagine i
  • Law School (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Venner ( 59051 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @04:14PM (#14071856)
    I started law school this fall; it differs from undergrad in that nearly everyone has a laptop and uses it to take notes. In my entering class, I think perhaps 6 or 7 students don't have a laptop. As an engineer and a techie in general, I find it terrific to have. I type much, much faster than I can write with a pen, and have FindLaw/Westlaw/Lexis-Nexis, state codes & regulations, the U.C.C., etc, all right at my fingertips for reference during class.

    What amazes me are the people who chat on aim the whole class, or browse facebook, or play MMORPGs (seriously). Even if you're a freakin' genius and don't need to listen to the professor and class discussion, it's distracting and just plain rude. The corolary, of course, is that it's natural selection in action :-) You reap what you sow.

    [As an aside, I actually find law school fun and, while not easy, certainly not hard. It is a feeling shared by the other handful of hard-science and engineering grads. We're basically used to the workload, if not the type of work . (No worries Slashdot-crowd, I'm not in it for the money and I'd sooner commit seppuku than work for the likes of the **AA.) ]
  • So What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by suwain_2 ( 260792 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @04:15PM (#14071859) Journal
    Our school issues students laptops, and has WiFi throughout *most* of the campus. Newer rooms have Ethernet ports for wired use as well.

    I don't think we need to treat the Internet differently from bringing, say, a book or magazine to class. If I bring my textbook to class, and use it to follow along with the professor, it's helpful. If I bring the textbook for another class and study in downtime during class, it's only me that's losing out. If I bring Playboy to class, it'd be a distraction to others, and then we have a problem.

    We give professors a means of turning network access off, but few professors do. I applaud this: I've used the Internet for a lot of constructive stuff during class. Looking up related material, getting the document we were supposed to print out and bring to class, etc.

    Yes, sometimes I'll notice classmates chatting on AIM or doing other stuff of no adademic value, but they're only hurting themselves. I really don't think schools have any need to try to regulate usage in classrooms.
  • by munpfazy ( 694689 ) * on Saturday November 19, 2005 @05:15PM (#14072151)
    At least in the physical sciences, 2/3 of the audience have their laptops open and are busy at work finishing up their own presentations, sending email, and doing any number of other random things. I've never seen a classroom with anywhere *near* the density of laptops being used for tasks other than note taking that happens in a conference full of professors, post-docs, and senior grad students.

    It seems to me the reason is simple: a lot of what speakers say isn't useful, even in the case of good speakers and voluntary audience. Even when it *is* useful, the rate at which information is presented is usually an order of magnitude slower than the rate at which the audience can absorb it, with huge gaps of dead time between important statements. So, at lectures people spend an hour sitting in their seats in order to catch a minute or two of really useful information.

    As someone who hasn't taken a course without lots of equations and diagrams in a long time, I've never had an excuse to bring a laptop to class. Instead, I have to spend all that dead time thinking about other things on my own without the benefit of a technological distraction.

    The problem with laptops in the classroom is that it hurts the feelings of lecturers, who are forced to confront the fact that most of their audience isn't paying attention to most of what they say most of the time.
  • by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @06:30PM (#14072434)
    One of my grandchildren attends university in California. He was telling me that one of his friends always brought a laptop to one of their Biology classes. My grandson and some of his other friends were particularly annoyed with their friend who'd always be playing games or watching DVDs.

    One of my grandson's friends ended up recording a soundfile that said "PENIS PENIS COCK PENIS PENIS VAGINA CUNT ANUS BUTTFUCK", and other sayings like that. They ended up putting it on their friend's laptop, and waited for a lecture when he left the class to go to the washroom. Once he was gone they turned up the volume, started looping that soundfile, and waited until their friend got back and sat down. As soon as he did, they pulled out the headphones, blaring out the audio.

    I think he said that the professor flipped, and told the kid to get out of his class. They had a meeting later on, and my grandson's friend was told never to bring the laptop to class again.

  • by siim04 ( 901085 ) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @07:47PM (#14072740)

    I use laptop in my classes. And yes, it can be a distraction. I find myself checking my mail, reading comics, cnn, updating information on a portal I (with my friends) own. But most distractions do not come from the Internet, they come from what you already have on laptop. You read articles you have downloaded last night, you write documents for your other classes, you prepare your projects, you write your own materials (ie. personal web page or a blog entry to be uploaded later when finished, projects, programs, finish job tasks), try out new soutions (software), audit and configure your PC and do a lot more. So blocking Internet acces is not a good solution!

    And blocking Internet access is bad for a number of other reasons as well. The first thing I do when I ge to class, I try to download the latest materials about the subject (and check the classes web page for updates). I also use the Internet to find materials relating to the subject (that can be very handy if you want to "take on" the tutor/presenter/lecturer ;)). Also finding alternate viewpoints to the materials can be helpful when trying to understand the lecturer or trying to confront him/her. Finding translations (from estonian to english or french or latin in my case) of terms is a challenge by itself. The downside is you understanding the amount of false information on wikipedia :p.

    For people having trouble paying attention to class I have a suggestion. Try to make notes. Not handwritten (you won't be able to read those anyways - that is the reason why I started carrying my laptop to classes at first place), but make notes using Lotus Notes, Microsoft Word (or Excel), KWord, AbiWord or Write. If you are some kind of a Linux/Unix geek, you might even take notes in *TeX (which I wouldn't suggest to anyone else). It is especially useful if the class does not yet have an online conspect as then you will be the first to write one and it can be an opportunity to get credit or extra income.

    I have seen most laptops in physics and economy classes, a bit less in computer science followed by law and then other social and real sciences and finally others. But I see the use of laptops increasing every week. I consider the use of laptops and Internet in classes more of a necessity than of distraction. It gives you much more opportunities than takes away. Ideally colleges and universities should be able to supply laptops to students in need as I can't see uncomputerised learning possible in ten years. E-learning, i-learning and learning from remote and independent is becoming more and more common. Classrooms are becoming more and more like (student) corporation rooms - places where people with similar interests can gather. It is even possible to graduate an university eithout actually ever visiting the university building (of the university you are to graduate) today. Why should we spend time for commuting between universty and home or university and work or university and cafe or ...? And why should we reserve certain times a week just to go and listen to one person talking if you could listen to the recording of his talk any time anywhere? We shouldn't!

  • by RyoShin ( 610051 ) <> on Saturday November 19, 2005 @10:09PM (#14073220) Homepage Journal
    I'm one of those people who always brings their laptop to class. The only classes that I don't take it to are math classes, or classes where it's not allowed (which is almost unheard of.) I even bring it to classes like Physics.

    The main purpose is notes, but as the term goes on, it takes on a whole other secondary purpose: Giving me a reason to be there. Frankly, 75% of the professors I've had so far in college (I'm in my second half the junior year) are dull, read off slides, don't know what the hell they're talking about, or are incomprehensible. However, most don't tell me when tests/quizes/homework will be ahead of time, so I go to class to make sure I know. While in class, I either work ahead in the book, do homework, or browse the internet. I once played Half-Life during Chemistry.

    There's no reason for me to do otherwise. Either the professors have such high curves that I don't actually need to learn the material to pass, the book gives me all the info I need so the professor is useless, or the professor is actually good and I am actually taking notes. The presence of my laptop generally has little to do with my overall grade, regardless if I use it to take notes or not, but the level of the professor has a profound effect.

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