Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Education

Professors vs. WiFi 455

Posted by michael
from the culture-jamming dept.
murky.waters writes "The New York Times (free registration, profiling) has an article about the opposing views of teacher's demanding attention and students seeking distraction; the current trend toward wireless Internet access in the classroom has students surfing the web and checking their email from the backrow, while instructors are climbing up the ladder... to disconnect the Access Point." Makarand writes "University Wi-Fi networks are heavily impacting student campus life according to this article on NewsObserver.com. In addition to allowing them to keep working while not in their computer labs, the wireless networks allow them to keep in touch with their family, better organize time, complete coursework in shorter periods of time, collaborate with other students and bring computing power into classrooms not available before."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Professors vs. WiFi

Comments Filter:
  • Attention span (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Alex Reynolds (102024)
    If the professor can't keep the attention of his or her students with wireless in the classroom, it's likely or at least possible that s/he wasn't able to give an interesting lecture before the advent of this technology.
    • Re:Attention span (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Bob McCown (8411) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:21AM (#4997900)
      Another thing I heard many of the professors in college say, when a student or ten were not paying attention, was "Well, some of you arent playing attention, but, its not my $BIGNUM a year you're spending, and I dont have to tell your parents why you failed this class."


      • Because the professor cannot properly do their job they punish the students? Its not the students job to be interested in what you have to say, its YOUR job to keep their interest and give exciting lectures, its THEIR job to do the required work and pass the required tests as well as attend class.

        There is no requirement to ENJOY the class or pay attention in the class, if the lecture is worthless crap they can read from the book or get on their own why should they pay attention.

        If I take a class on C, and the teacher is explaining hello world and I already know C why the hell should I bother paying attention, and if the teacher has an accent when teaching this garbage like one of my teachers from india had, or a greek accent, forget it, I'm not even going to bother wasting my time trying to figure out what they are saying, Ill show up, and ill do what I want until the class is over.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 02, 2003 @10:28AM (#4998230)
          BZZZZZZTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!

          WRONG!!!!

          Care to try again? The classroom environment requires the participation of BOTH the instuctor and the student. Additionally, the onus to aggressively pursue a quality learning envrionment lies more with the student. The best teacher in the world can't teach a student who actively resists, but a dedicated student can (and often WILL) suceed in learning a great deal despite instructors of a lower caliber. This is exemplefied in Mark Twain's famous quote: "I never let schooling interfere with my education."

          ---
          Fighting ignorance and apathy since 1977

        • Well as a teacher, Thats true, it is up to the instructor to make the information at least digestible. I have two counter views however.

          The classroom is a society and as such the student has a responsibilty to allow other students the opportunity to be interested, not distracted and get the benefit of the lecture. If anyone is slamming away at a laptop in class it is a distraction, or if they have a CD player going with headphones that can be heard 10 feet away, that is a distraction. If that is the case then assuming attendence is not mandetory that student should behave or not show.

          The second observation I have is that some but not all students that seem to feel that they know the material, don't. You point about knowing C is a good example. No self respecting college level course teaches just C, or C++ or whatever. What is being taught is programming, or data structures or Object Oriented Paradigm, or some cluster of ideas, but never just a language. As I have observed in my day job, knowing a language has little to do with intellegent approaches to structuring and solving problems in way that is efficient, maintainable and re-usable. These are the other things that are taught along with say a language being taught.

          If you get to a place where you think that it is not worth listening to someone teaching on your subject then you have stopped learning. Or better yet you can start that next process of learning by comparing what you hear with that you know and make those critical observations about how it should have been done. Much of my work has been just that, reverse engineering other peoples ideas about how something should have been done.

          Opportunities are now, not later. Find the fault line to split the diamond in one blow.

    • Exactly, (Score:4, Interesting)

      by HanzoSan (251665) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:23AM (#4997904) Homepage Journal


      Unlike highschool, people pay to go to college. Its not logical to pay for something you dont REALLY want.

      So if you pay to hear them lecture and they just suck, its not your fault, you paid them, they just suck. Highschool is different, you dont really want to be there, you are just stuck there.

      Professors need to earn their salaries, at my school the students actually EVALUATE the teachers, teachers who cannot give good lectures recieve poor ratings.

      • Re:Exactly, (Score:3, Interesting)

        by benzapp (464105)
        Unlike highschool, people pay to go to college. Its not logical to pay for something you dont REALLY want.

        Well, this is LAW school we are talking about. Prior to 80 years ago, most states did not require lawyers to go to law school, and those that did not require an undergraduate degree as a prerequisite. (note, lawyering used to be like a trade, you worked as an apprentice. This is still required in Canada) Law school as we know it today was created to make it exceedingly difficult for lower classes to become involved with the American system of jurisprudence.

        That being said, law school doesn't really teach you anything. As the article states, most of these teachers are stuck in the 1970's, during the great heyday of the wealthy elite ruling the universities thinking they knew what was best for America. The "Paper Chase" is nowhere near accurate today.

        The reality is that Law is being changed by the internet more than any other profession. You used to pay for the experience a lawyer gains over a lifetime. But now, anyone with a credit card can go to Westlaw or Lexis-Nexis and find tons of resources.

        But students get it for free. This makes the entire research process infinitely easier, as well as makes the process of summarizing cases for class discussion much easier. Many cases are already summarized online.

        The teachers hate this more than anything. Between the internet and the many hornbooks and study guides available, most teachers know students don't learn jack shit in class. All class teaches you is how deal with pressure. Personally, I believe that is questionable, but in the face of overwhelming evidence that class instruction is not required to do well on an exam they have to claim something.

        The point? No one WANTS to go to class in law school. It sucks. But, if you want to be a lawyer you have to go. So people go through the motions, and try and look busy.

      • Re:Exactly, (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Not quite true. Most students are paying for the degree and often see any class outside their narrow focus as an obstacle to graduation. The idea of a university is to educate, and sometimes that includes learning ideas that may not be initially interesting to a student. How many management majors want to take a course in the philosophical foundations of ethics? How many do we wish would? The CEO of Enron, perhaps?

        If a school is going to give someone a degree, it is saying that person has completed all the requirements for graduation -- i.e. has gained a broad enough education to be granted a bachelor's degree. The degree is not a commodity and shouldn't be cheapened by letting students who are too immature to realize that a course has value completely ignore it. Yes, some instructors should be better, but that doesn't release the student from the responsiblity to learn.
    • This is true. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Sure, kids have laptops. But it doesn't mean they're going to use them to slack off if the class is interesting. In my compsci classes, about a quarter of the class brings laptops with them. When lectures are interesting, you don't see much on those laptop screens besides a text editor. The days lectures are boring, there are web sites, email, GTA3, etc. If they want to pay attention, they will. If they don't, they'll find a way to pass the time even without laptops.
  • Some thoughts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bunyip (17018) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:18AM (#4997886)
    We have the same problem where work, people who sit in meetings and work their email, pounding away with their thumbs and not paying attention. Many of these people don't really contribute to the meetings anyway, so it's not that great a problem.

    As for universities, grades are the answer. My guess is that these students want to work chat and email in class, yet pull an easy "A" at the end of the semester. When they get a "C", or fail a class, perhaps they will make the right decision. If not, it's evolution in action.
    • Re:Some thoughts (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sporty (27564) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:28AM (#4997926) Homepage

      As for universities, grades are the answer. My guess is that these students want to work chat and email in class, yet pull an easy "A" at the end of the semester. When they get a "C", or fail a class, perhaps they will make the right decision. If not, it's evolution in action.


      If I'm making no noise, and have an easy grasp of the course material, who says I have to sit there or even take notes unless the class requires participation? I've had a disdain for professors who either require attendance and/or "undevided attention" when I know the course material or no participation in class ins necessary.

      At work, yes. You are required to participate in meetings. But in college, it's totally different.
      • On the other hand (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dachshund (300733) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:50AM (#4998027)
        If I'm making no noise, and have an easy grasp of the course material, who says I have to sit there or even take notes unless the class requires participation? I've had a disdain for professors who either require attendance and/or "undevided attention" when I know the course material or no participation in class ins necessary.

        As a former student, soon to be teaching, I'm torn on this one. The difference between my best and my worst classes has often been student engagement. When half the class is zoning out, I find it that much harder to be interested in the material. When everyone around me is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (whether it be because the material is interesting, or because they know their performance depends on their absorbing the material), the attitude is contagious. In-class teaching is valuable, and very often provides more than any textbook. And for god's sake, you didn't pay $n,000 dollars to get the same education you could get from a video-correspondance course.

        I wish more professors moved from dry lecturing to a slightly more socratic class style. In the absence of that, they might at least making the material important enough that you can't afford to miss it (ie, not a re-hash of the textbook chapter.) At very least, it's not unreasonable to make attendance non-mandatory and demand that the people who don't want to be there go check their email somewhere else.

        • First off, I always attended classes, whenever possible, as it's the teacher who writes the test, not the book -- If the teacher says something 4 times, even if the book only mentioned it once, you better right it down, because odds are, it's going to be on the test.

          That being said, I slept in class. I don't know what it is about classes, but unless the teacher made it interesting, I couldn't stay awake. There was only one class that I did particularly poorly on [not an A or B] in college -- Fluid Dynamics [mind you, I got an A the semester before in Hydraulics, which I had to get the pre-req of Fluid Dynamics waved for].

          I feel strongly that it had to do with the teaching style -- the teacher wouldn't even let you take notes in his class, because 'if you were writing, you weren't listening, and if you're not listening, you're not learning'. To make matters worse, I found the teacher to be particularly boring. He read from the book. That was the class -- him reading from the book, putting a few problems up on the overhead, and you sitting there, bored out of your skull. [Oh, and he wrote the book, too, so it's not like he added stuff that wasn't in the book, or could read the book for a slightly different explaination].

          Now, I did my best to not be a distraction for people in class. Although I had a Richochet modem, I didn't make a feature out of the fact that I wasn't paying attention to the class. I took an Oracle DBA certificate program last year, and there were three people sitting in the second row, who kept looking at web pages, talking to each other, taking cell phone calls while the teacher was talking, etc.

          I don't believe that you need absolute undivided attention. [ie, if you got the concept right off, and the teacher's explaining it to a few people who needed some clarification, okay, I'd glance over at my screen], but the teacher should be your primary focus for the class, and if you become a distraction, I think you should be removed from the class so you don't impact other people's education.

          [Oh -- and in the course last summer -- those same three people installed AIM, and were using they joys of networking to cheat on tests... one more strike against technology in the classroom].

          Personally, I find that I pay the most attention in class when I can understand how the material affects me. Of course, everyone has different experience, and finding how to make the material relate to each of the students can be a difficult task. [I view the 'meet the students' first day one of the most important days of class... especially if the teacher asks what you're expecting to get out of the class]
        • Well, yes, and that's the answer. Generations of students have zoned out in classes with boring teachers; it's just that now it's more obvious that they're zoning out because they're working on electronic devices instead of just daydreaming. A good professor, with an interesting speaking style, who adds a depth of understanding to the course material that students can't get by just reading the textbook, is a lot less likely to have problems with this. I'd be very interested to see student evaluation results on the professors who are kicking up the most fuss ... Like the NYT article says, " The screens provide a silent commentary on the teacher's attention-grabbing skills."

          Now, granted, there will inevitably be students who are too easily distracted -- "Oooh, shiny!" -- to pay attention even to good profs. You know what? Screw 'em? The rest of the class, both students and professor, will know who those people are, and work around them. In the rare cases where those people are geniuses who just get the material without paying attention in class, well, good for them. In the much more common case where they're goof-offs, well, their grades will show that at end of term.
      • Re:Some thoughts (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tmark (230091) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @10:31AM (#4998250)
        who says I have to sit there or even take notes unless the class requires participation? I've had a disdain for professors who either require attendance and/or "undevided attention" when I know the course material or no participation in class ins necessary.

        As a former teacher at a major university, I can say that I wouldn't care if you don't pay attention. I *would* care, however, when students are checking their email or IM'ing each other because that activity inevitably distracts other students who *are* trying to pay attention, just the same as students who are whispering to each other constantly or passing notes. Images changing on a screen in front of a student can't help but draw their attention away. Hell, if laptops weren't necessary for a particular class, I would even consider disallowing use of *those* because the cacophony of keyboards-a-clicking is very distracting.

        My stance was always that I didn't care if you came to class or not, but I did care if your decision affected other students.


    • The people are getting paid to do a job and paid to go to those meetings, but say your job is to entertain your customers, say you are a COMEDIAN, and your only role is to keep their attention and make them laugh, and these people boo and ignoore you.

      Do you get mad at the audience and say "why arent you cheering? stop booing me!! if you dont stop booing me I'm going to charge you TWICE!!!! PAY ATTENTION TO ME OR ELSE"

      Or do you actually do your job and stop blaming the people you work for?
    • As for universities, grades are the answer. My guess is that these students want to work chat and email in class, yet pull an easy "A" at the end of the semester. When they get a "C", or fail a class, perhaps they will make the right decision. If not, it's evolution in action.

      If a student feels they already have the requisite knowlege to get an 'A' why shouldn't they skip class entirely or work on other things in the class so long as they aren't disrupting other students? At the end of the year they'll either get the 'A' and be vindicated or not and have learned a valuable lesson. I've already mentioned elsewhere in this discussion that for one of the courses I did at uni the entire class decided after the first few weeks that their learning experience would be better served by self study than by attending the lectures. Not one of us got below a 'B' (infact there were only a few people didn't get an 'A') mainly because instead of spending 3 hours a week listening to him droning on we just read the material and discussed it in informal sessions in the pub.

      Part of the learning experience at college is learning to manage your time. If a student believes that their learning would be better served elsewhere why should they waste time at a lecture (maybe skip lectures in a subject they already know well to spend more time on a subject they are struggling with). If students abuse that then, like you indicated, their grades will reflect that.

      Stephen

  • by sboyko (537649) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:19AM (#4997887) Homepage
    Call me old-fashioned, but I wish for the days when you had a chance of having someone's complete attention. These days of cellphones, PDAs and laptops mean that distractions are commonplace.

    Sure, many classes are very boring and students will lose interest regardless of what toy is in front of them, but I think professors have a right to limit distactions.
    • I'm currently an online student. Everyone always uses the "Don't you get distracted?" line on me. The answer is no. There's been one class that I've had so far where I didn't pay attention, and that was due to a crappy professor.
      God forbid that the college tuition we pay, that has topped the CPI for so long, be used to recruit better professors instead of funding projects that students don't use.

      Phoenix
    • by SScorpio (595836)
      I completely agree with you especially in an academic environment. While going to school I didn't have these things other than a PDA need the end of my schooling. I didn't then, nor do I now see the need for these devices. If a teacher is extremely boring , then just do what I did just learn to sleep sitting up without snoring. This was especially helpfully after being up 'til ungodly hours working on school work, messing around on the Internet, or playing Video games. It still disheartens me to see all the students just wasting their time. If they don't care about the lecture then don't goto class. Sure it makes the class harder; however, if you not playing attention in it anyways there isn't much difference and you won't be distracting other students that are trying to learn. When all is said and done. New toys are fun but they do not work well in an academic environment. Hell, I'm against putting a computer in every classroom in primary schools. What use is a computer that occasionally gets used to play some dumb little educational game this is several levels below what is being taught in the class. Sure it's common place to need to know how to operate a computer but that doesn't mean you have to be around them at all times.
      • While going to school I didn't have these things other than a PDA need the end of my schooling. I didn't then, nor do I now see the need for these devices.

        I'm sure at one time people didn't see the need for kids to take pen and paper to class either. It's a new age, and there are new tools available to help kids learn more stuff, and learn it better. We should encourage their use for learning, rather than discouraging their use entirely.

        It's up to the professor to exploit the tools the kids have. For example, what if the professor says "Can somebody do a quick Google search to see what the consequences of the US joining the second world war later would have been?". Admitted, it's a contrived example, but computers are a powerful informational tool, and professors are to teach information. They should exploit this tool.

        It still disheartens me to see all the students just wasting their time.

        Students have always, and will always waste their time. This is a fact of life. If they are interfering with the class with their time-wasting, that's a human problem. Removing the computers will not solve this problem, because the problem existed long before computers were even invented.

        New toys are fun but they do not work well in an academic environment.

        The fact that computers are treated as toys is in itself, the problem. Make them a tool for education, not a toy for distraction. This is up to the professors and not the students, really. Wouldn't it be great if the professor gave html versions of their class notes to their students to view during the lecture? Then the student could fill them in with more detail than they would have had if they had to take the notes completely themselves, and then have more information to use while studying. At least the information would have more depth, and therefore be more meaningful.

        Hell, I'm against putting a computer in every classroom in primary schools. What use is a computer that occasionally gets used to play some dumb little educational game this is several levels below what is being taught in the class.

        This is also a human problem. Again, like I've said several times before, this is people not exploiting the tools that they have before them. It's up to the teacher to use the tool to benefit the class. Do the teachers need better software to do this? Arguably, yes. Do the teachers need training to exploit this tool? Definitely, yes. Does it do any good to slap one in every classroom (or on every kid's desk, where it could do the most good) without providing the necessary infrastructure (including software) to use it? No.

        A tool is only as useful as the people using them allow them to be. Computers are a great tool for storing, retrieving, modeling, et al, information. Let's use them that way. But they still only do what they've been told to do.

        • by MattJ (14813)
          "It's up to the professor to exploit the tools the kids have. For example, what if the professor says "Can somebody do a quick Google search to see what the consequences of the US joining the second world war later would have been?". Admitted, it's a contrived example, "

          I'll cut you slack because it was an example pulled out of your hat. But it really would be a terrible use of a computer in the classroom. Your professor is asking for not just a simple, noncontroversial "fact", but rather a historical judgement.

          Even if you could come up with a decent Google query and find a good matching page within a minute or two (before the class moves on), you don't have time to read and assess the argument. All you can do is parrot what you've found. This is a good question for an essay, written with careful consideration, but not good for a quick in-class lookup.

          Also, this is a good example of one of the biggest dangers of Googling, particularly for students. I'll call it the Law of Distorted Significance, though someone else may have described this otherwise. In a database of content and metacontent (e.g., Google) which is sufficiently large and diverse (created by millions of people around the world), you will find nearly *anything*. That much is shown by the difficulty of googlewhacking. The danger is that you can conclude that what you've found has real significance.
    • What people do not realize is that people have become multi-tasking capable.

      I run two computers concurrently. And have two screens for one so that I can log remotely into another couple of machines. Usually I have the TV going as I work.

      My point? I multi-task and it was something I honed over years. If I had to solely listen to the professeur I would daydream and get bored because he would not speak fast enough. These days most people are very verbose and 60% of what they say is a repeat of the original text.

      Do the professors have a right to limit distractions? NO! If the student does not make noises then the professeur has no right to say anything. When I was in university I used to doodle, talk, sleep while the professeur was talking. When the professeur was interesting then I listened. And that is the key, the professeur has to get you excited about learning. Classes do not have to be boring! That is what many professeurs do not understand. Remember a professeur is there to teach you, not be in awe of their "brillance".
      • by Kombat (93720) <kombat@kombat.org> on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:56AM (#4998049) Homepage
        What people do not realize is that people have become multi-tasking capable.

        *raises eyebrows* Excuse me? We've "become" multi-tasking capable? Humans have been multi-tasking capable for thousands of years. It's part of our nature. And who, exactly, doesn't "realize" this, as you assert?

        I don't mean to rip on you SerpentMage, I just get irritated at people who not only think they've just "discovered" something that's obviously extremely old, but who also think they're in some sort of elite few who know it. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you're not that special. Virtually everyone multi-tasks, you just don't see it because you're too in awe of your own mastery of simultaneously reading Slashdot and watching Star Trek, while compiling a kernel.

        Classes do not have to be boring! That is what many professeurs do not understand.

        Again, this is a ridiculous statement, offered only to serve your own ego. I challenge you to find me one single professor anywhere on the planet who sincerely believes that "classes are supposed to be boring." That's absurd. No one thinks that.

        And at the risk of turning this into a spelling flame, perhaps you should have paid more attention to your English professor while you were busy learning to multi-task in grade 8.

        • by Lumpy (12016)
          There ARE some Amazing people out there..

          I remember one kid in high school that would Doodle with his left hand, take notes with his right hand and read something from a different class.. the teacher many times tried to bust "steve"... by saying when she was sure he was just screwing around.. "so what is the answer to this steve?" and without even looking up from his math book would give the correct answer... usually like "That's really easy... it's Sodium-di-chromate in an aquous solution" or something else that blew her mind, and everyone else.

          There are TRUE multitaskers... who really can do many things at once... and they are ultra rare...
      • by DrSkwid (118965) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @10:14AM (#4998153) Homepage Journal
        When the professeur was interesting then I listened.

        So while sleeping you multi-tasking brain was able to wake you up when the prof got interesting?

        wtg.
      • by Carmody (128723) <slashdot.dougshaw@com> on Thursday January 02, 2003 @12:51PM (#4999020) Homepage Journal

        What people do not realize is that people have become multi-tasking capable.

        I've been a professor for many years. I've won awards for my teaching. I have a strong reputation among students for being a good teacher. So I am not just being a dick when I say:

        What students do not realize is that they are not as multi-tasking capable as they think.

        I am not being paid by you to lecture for a micro-century and then go home. I am not being paid by you to give you tests and grade them. You are paying for my expertise in teaching you the material. I say that when you are in my class you should be paying attention. You don't think that you should have to. You know what? I know more about this issue than you do. I say that when you are in my class, and we break into groups to discuss a calculus topic, that you should be listening to and talking to your classmates for that part of class. You don't see the point. You know what? I know more about this issue than you do. You are paying for my judgement.

        Part of college may be the process of learning "time management" and all that, but you know what? I don't give a shit. In my calculus class, the only thing I care about is that you learn calculus. And, as a result of my experience in teaching, and research in education, I've found that if I insist on your attention, you will learn a hell of a lot more about it. I've done experiments to that end, have you? I've read literature about it. Have you? I've taught calculus to thousands of students. Have you?

        My classes are usually interesting, according to my students, so this isn't that much of an issue for me. But you know what? You would have learned more if you listened all the time. Not all subjects are Monty Python's Flying Circus. Even though my classes tend to be fun in general, sometimes I will warn the students, "Gang, this is going to be a dry fifty minutes, and I'm sorry." and then I will procede to bore the fuck out of them. (Measure Theory wouldn't "VOOM" if you put four million volts through it) There are techniques that, as a professor, I can employ to help you through the dull spots. But even if a professor doesn't do that, tough titty.

        If I had to solely listen to the professeur I would daydream and get bored because he would not speak fast enough

        Then daydream. Get bored. Life is not always like Nintendo. If all of your professors bore you, then maybe you are in the wrong major, or at the wrong university.

        I have not mentioned my particular policies re: attendence, laptops, doodling, etc. My policies are irrelevant to this discussion. The point is that you are paying the professor to exercise her or his judgment when setting those policies, and the professor likely knows more about it than you do.

  • by Alizarin Erythrosin (457981) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:19AM (#4997888)
    If the class is interesting then the students will stay on task, not check their email and etc. At the university I attend they have wireless access in a number of buildings with plans to add it to others as well as outdoors in the major gathering areas. I find it helps out with class because you can download the class notes and follow along or look up a website the prof is talking about in his lecture.

    On a funny side note one guy in one of my classes WAS looking up pr0n while in class, all the people behind him were wide-eyed looking at it... that's how he got busted.
    • by Kombat (93720)
      If the class is interesting then the students will stay on task

      Not everyone finds network analysis interesting, but it is a required part of the cirriculum for many comp sci degrees. Some people find it fascinating.

      It is not the material that makes it boring or interesting, it is the student. People have different interests. Not all subjects are inherently interesting to everyone. But they still must learn it, if they want that piece of paper.

    • Although "interesting" classes may be somewhat exempt from Wifi-based entertainment, it's really all about motivation. Wifi or no Wifi, some students are not all that motivated. How is Wifi surfing any worse than passing stupid little notes or just plain old sleeping. I suspect that Wifi doesn't change the percentage of students who fail to pay attention. On the other hand, it could be a real factor at exam time.
    • porn gazing (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MacAndrew (463832)
      On a funny side note one guy in one of my classes WAS looking up pr0n while in class, all the people behind him were wide-eyed looking at it... that's how he got busted.

      A rare example of legitimate social Darwinism. :)

      A manager at a major newspaper (I knew the general counsel) got canned for watching porn at work -- in his glass office. To me, it would have been perfectly fair to fire him for being an idiot. :) Had they retained him, the paper could have been liable to other employees for condoning a hostile atmosphere, but I hope remedies short of termination were properly considered. Again, we can surmise he was an idiot.
  • How sad... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by muyuubyou (621373) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:20AM (#4997895)
    ...it is that new technologies find OPPOSITION at Universities so often. It really makes you think.
  • by HanzoSan (251665) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:21AM (#4997898) Homepage Journal
    of bashing the technology and blaming it for them being terrible and boring with their lectures they'd be fine.

    Look, technology is good, WiFi is good, a smart teacher would use WiFi and the fact that all the students have laptops and AIM to their advantage, to get the students communicating better with each other through AIM, and to talk about the class.

    The teacher could even bring his own laptop, add their AIM screen names to his AIM account, and talk to students via AIM.

    This is college not highschool, a teacher cannot try to blame the students for lack of attention, students pay you with THEIR money so that you can get their attention, these people want to learn and pay to learn, if you arent doing a good job and they think your lecture is a complete waste of time they dont have to pay attention.

    I've had great teachers give lectures and it doesnt even feel like a lecture, it feels like conversation because the teacher gets people involved, its even entertaining sometimes!

    Then we have lectures where teachers read off a peice of paper going down a list of things they must talk about, perhaps some boring as hell subject like computer programmer, and the teacher is from india and cannot speak english properly, some people just should not lecture!!!

    In this situation you'd be better off getting your information from the internet than listening to the lecturer guide you step by step on how to write hello world.

    Wi Fi is good, schools need to learn to use technology to their advantage.
    • Technology is not good. Technology is technology. It is neither good nor evil. Like any other tool, it can be used for many different things. In the examples you give, technology isn't the solution. Better teachers is the solution. You're trying to apply a technological solution to a sociological problem and it doesn't work. Yes, wi can be used to great advantage in schools and it should be.
      Kids surfing porn/slashdot/etc during class is not integral to the education process.


      The teacher could even bring his own laptop, add their AIM screen names to his AIM account, and talk to students via AIM


      Um, they're all in the same room, why on earth would that be of any use to anyone? They don't need their computer with them at all times to add someone to their AIM list unless they are incapable of writing it down on a piece of paper (a distinct possibility in our age of techno-worship).


      This is college not highschool, a teacher cannot try to blame the students for lack of attention, students pay you with THEIR money so that you can get their attention, these people want to learn and pay to learn, if you arent doing a good job and they think your lecture is a complete waste of time they dont have to pay attention.


      Have you been to college? I knew many students who felt that since they were paying to attend, they should be guaranteed passing grades and shouldn't have to be bothered with things like homework or tests or showing up. My dad taught college for 30+ years and in the last 10 I can't count the number of parents who had the same attitude. "We're paying your salary, you have to give him a passing grade even if he never came to class."



      • IM can be used so students who want to ask questions in private without annoying other students can.

        I dont believe just by paying im required to get a passing grade but i do expect them to pass me if I do my part of the contract, if it says I have to pass test X and i pass it, I better get a passing grade.

    • Am I missing something? Why use AIM if everyone is sitting in the same room? It's a lot easier just to raise your hand and say something. I agree that technology could be better employed in the classroom, but this doesn't seem to be the answer.

      As for bad profs, I agree. The problem is the University makes a lot of money off of research grants. Hence, they're very interested in how much research money the prof will bring in, and not interested enough in how well the prof teaches. In my view, the priorities are skewed. I long for the legendary days before "publish or perish."

    • Maybe if teachers worked with technology instead of bashing the technology and blaming it for them being terrible and boring with their lectures they'd be fine.

      Okay, but you have to realise that wifi doesn't really add many possibilities to a lecture beyond what is capable with projectors and simple discussion. For instance:

      The teacher could even bring his own laptop, add their AIM screen names to his AIM account, and talk to students via AIM.

      As opposed to simply talking to them?

      This is college not highschool, a teacher cannot try to blame the students for lack of attention

      Agreed 100%. It's the student's responsibility to learn using the available resources - if they dick around instead of paying attention, then they won't get very far.

      Then we have lectures where teachers read off a peice of paper going down a list of things they must talk about, perhaps some boring as hell subject like computer programmer, and the teacher is from india and cannot speak english properly, some people just should not lecture!!!

      Been there, done that...

      In this situation you'd be better off getting your information from the internet than listening to the lecturer guide you step by step on how to write hello world.

      In this situation, you'd be better off pointing it out to their superiors. If the lecturer is redundant, then it's a waste of money to employ them. If there is anything to be gained from having a lecturer, then their students are being cheated.

      I don't see how "lecture notes available through the internet" translates to "wifi in lecture halls is useful" though. If the lectures aren't useful to you, skip them and download the notes from wherever you like.

    • ... teacher's every word and loudly pointing out every teeny mistake he makes, with bulletproof reference to prove him wrong?

      Must be rather annoying in history, litterature or philosophy classes, when teachers no longer can pull the wool over their pupil's eyes to push their own agenda...

    • of the running gag in Real Genius which ends with an empty classroom and the teacher's tape recorder talking to the students' tape recorders.
      • of the running gag in Real Genius which ends with an empty classroom and the teacher's tape recorder talking to the students' tape recorders.

        I shall act as if I have no sense of humour (debatable anyway...) and pick on the nugget of truth ingrained in the joke.

        When I was at University (90/92) I used to leave a dictaphone running in some of the lectures. This wasn't so that I could snooze however - quite the opposite. It was so that I could listen and follow what was being said, rather than getting bogged down in just copying everything that was said to paper.

        Tape recorders can be useful, so long as your intent is good.

        Cheers,
        Ian

    • This is college not highschool, a teacher cannot try to blame the students for lack of attention, students pay you with THEIR money so that you can get their attention, these people want to learn and pay to learn, if you arent doing a good job and they think your lecture is a complete waste of time they dont have to pay attention.

      I totally agree! At college students are responsible for their own learning so if the lecturer is failing to provide a suitable learning environment then they can't blame the students for not showing up or for doing other things whilst sitting in class and then getting their learning another way (if they choose to not show up and don't make up the learning elsewhere then they, the student, have a problem but that's a separate issue).

      One of the things that suprised me, not having attended a US college, about Season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the attitude exhibited to the students by the lecturers, dissmissive or even downright hostile. At first I thought it was just the fact that it was fictional but what suprised me even more was talking to friends who had attended, and were still attending, US colleges and being told that that was normal and expected. Seriously, if a UK lecturer tried any of those things then, based on my own experience at University of Keele in North Staffordshire (1989-93), they would be on academic disiplinary charges within days.

      I did have some crap lecturers, one's 'lectures' consisted of him reading out the handouts verbatim in a dull monotone. In this case by the 4th week the entire class were just showing up to pick up the hand outs then disapearing off to read them in the Student's Union bar. By the 6th week we had got into the habit of getting together for informal bull sessions after reading to work out what the heck it was all about, leading to a discursive learning method, one of the best courses I ever did actually!

      In another course I stopped attending after the 3rd session because it was an area I already knew a lot about. In the exam I got the best grade out of the entire group for that course.

      Stephen

    • by extra88 (1003) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:53AM (#4998038)
      What a stupid idea, a teacher using IM *in class.* They're in the same room, they should talk! I can concoct scenarios in which that's not stupid but they almost never happen in real life.

      You really aren't asking professors to be interesting, you are asking them to be entertaining, more entertaining than what students can find on a 'net connection. That almost never happens and isn't really a plausible goal anyway.

      Even if the students are paying for school themselves, they're not buying the right to be rude, to the teacher or to their fellow students. Students can't properly judge whether a lecture is a waste of their time while it's going on, only when the course is over or maybe after their next assignment.

      There are certainly many people who do not teach well, especially in a "sage on the stage" setting, and schools could use less of that format but that's no excuse for being so disrespectful and a distraction to your classmates.
    • of bashing the technology and blaming it for them being terrible and boring with their lectures they'd be fine.

      Look, technology is good, WiFi is good, a smart teacher would use WiFi and the fact that all the students have laptops and AIM to their advantage, to get the students communicating better with each other through AIM, and to talk about the class.

      The teacher could even bring his own laptop, add their AIM screen names to his AIM account, and talk to students via AIM.


      Wow. $100k+ worth of technology to enable a group of people sitting in the same room to communicate with each other! Why didn't they think of this before? We wouldn't have to bother with such pesky things as talking, taking turns or other aspects of organized civil behavior.

      I experienced several lecturers that were dead boring, but my friends who are professors and are good at and want to teach say that the problem isn't so much with them -- although they acknowledge their own academic tendency to run on about tertiary issues -- but with institutions of higher learning that are more interested in being research engines.

      Professors that spend a lot of time making interesting lectures don't do as much research, don't get grants, don't advance, and don't get resources. Unversities spend their money building lavish facilities for research and money-making activities, not hiring undergrad instructors. They cram hundreds of students into lecture halls that resemble large movie theaters -- and we wonder why the lecture seems boring or there's little student interaction?

      And then the Universities claim they *need* to get research dollars since its what gives them prestige and status, that means more tax dollars and alumni contributions. Political correctness demands they admit thousands of unprepared or incapable students who require two years of essentially remedial instruction (cf crowded, boring lecture halls), draining resources for small-class professor-class interaction.

      I think that many academics are low tech and some revel in being so, but being pissed off at the University for spending money to enable students to nullify what little classroom experience they can deliver isn't at all surprising. It's simple, easy and dead wrong to lay all the blame on professors. I won't even start on the spoiled, ignorant students and their massively misplaced sense of entitlement...
  • by mmoncur (229199)
    Students haven't paid attention in class since the dawn of time. It's what makes them students. Whether you give them computers, wireless net connections, paper airplanes, books, or guitars to play with will make no difference.

    Those who are surfing the net now would have been passing notes in class or listening to headphones years ago. If they really want to change this they could start kicking out students for apathy, but all that would do is make the schools go broke while professors spoke to near-empty rooms.

    Don't forget, those apathetic students are paying to keep the school running for those who actually listen in class.
  • by $0 31337 (225572) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:22AM (#4997902) Homepage
    We had this problem at the university that I work at as the DBA. Professors were irked at students not paying attention to the class and instead chatting on IM or playing games. The solution that we came up with is a website that a professor can visit on our intranet and select the level of wireless blocking that he/she would like for a given class. The different levels are things like Web Access Only, Web & Email, Email Only, All, and None (the default of course is all access is allowed unless otherwise specified). The results are then stored in our central database. The second part of the program is a linux box that runs some perl code every minute out of cron. It checks to see if there are any blocks issued for any of the classes that are starting on this minute. If there are, it pulls out a list of all students that are enrolled in the given class from the database and then dynamicly creates a snort rule file which just blasts out TCP resets to the local user effectivly blocking them. This solution has worked well for us with of course the exception of students being angry. I personally agree with the professors on this one simply because if you are in one of their classes and you bother to show up, your on their time at that point. If you don't want to pay attention then simply don't go. Just an opinion :)

    • They wouldnt have to block it.

      Maybe if the professor actually got on IM and talked to students, maybe if the professor interacted more with them instead of just talking a boring scripted lecture students would have reason to pay attention.

      Look, I wont pay attention to a lecture unless the lecture is teaching me something i didnt know, or the lecture is actually engaging in some way, that causes me to interact with the teacher or with other students.

      If a teacher is just reciting a book, I dont need to pay attention i can just read the book.
  • by reaper20 (23396) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:23AM (#4997903) Homepage
    Quick google searches/FAQs would have helped me understand more of those obtuse subjects.

    What the professor is really thinking is "Crap, this lesson is a one page 'for dummies' FAQ online, I better pad this with some bullshit."
  • To all the professors climbing up the ladder: This wifi thingy is new to the students right now and only temporarily distracting them. They just need to get used to it, which involves exploring the possibilities. Be glad they have such an interest in new technology!

    Give it a few months(and some bad exam results ;) ) and you'll see everything gets back to normal.

    just my 2 cents...

  • by mikeboone (163222) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:26AM (#4997919) Homepage Journal
    In my day :), we had no wi-fi, so I would sit in the back of unimportant classes and do the school paper's crossword puzzle. I was quiet and didn't bother anyone, and was just there in case something important came up like a test date or critical part of a lecture.

    That seems reasonable to me for many of the undergrad courses I took, which I only took because they were requirements.

    At any rate, professors were being paid with my money...they shouldn't care if I skipped class or did the crossword or surfed the net as long as I didn't disturb any of the other students.
  • As long as the student who is surfing the web/chatting/whatever doesn't bother anyone else, why should it matter? The student could just as easily walk out of the class. In my class (when I used to teach as a TA) the rule was simple: as long as you didn't bother the others, do whatever you want. Sleeping was OK too, but not snoring :-)

    These professors should lighten up and get with the times.

  • Not high school (Score:3, Insightful)

    by airuck (300354) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:31AM (#4997945)
    I have taught several university courses in computer labs and can sympathize with the distraction of having to compete with email and the web, but this article is not about high school. University students are paying customers and instructors are employees. It may be rude to the instructor, but as long as they are distracting other students, then it is their choice. Of course, I am far less likely to assist a student who spent more time chatting (on line or off) than a student really working to master the material.
  • would it be hard for the tech guys to only allow intranet access from the wifi access points in class? you know, at NYU you can only surf nyu.edu domain sites from class? oh, and you can't check your school webmail ;) .

    that said, i do think if a professor is interesting enough or if classroom time is important enough, this problem won't exist. back in my college days i'd get distracted from classes too - but i'd just stay at home and surf the net ;).
    • That's not a terrible idea but then some students set up open proxies to surf through and become not just classroom distractions but security and spam risks as well.

      Very few college students are capable of determining whether a lecture is worthwhile or not.
  • by hayden (9724) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:35AM (#4997960)
    Why can't they just fall asleep like generations of uni students before them? It prepares you for later life when you need to look attentive and not drool in meetings.

    Sigh, the times we live in.

  • Distracting (Score:3, Funny)

    by kEnder242 (262421) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:39AM (#4997971)
    Reminds me of when I nearly flunked calc II because they stuck computers in front of us in the classroom. We didn't have web browsers but ftp worked just fine.

    I remember downloading shareware quake from cdrom.com and playing a few multiplayer...

    teacher walks over "what next?"
    me "uhh derive it!" (always the best answer)

    The funnest part was using something similar to winpopup (must have been netware or something) and typing "pay attention!" to people across the room.
  • I can hit this from both sides, as I've been a participant in the good and bad side of wi-fi in the classroom. Granted, where I recently graduated from, there was no wi-fi infrastructure, other than what the students built in the dorms.

    However, my dorm was close enough to one of the academic buildings that if I sat near the window, I could pick up the signal from the AP in my room. I used my laptop in one class to pull/update files in CVS on my dorm server for a programming class I was taking. This was great for me, as I could get anything I needed from my computer back in my room, without worrying "did I put all the files on the disk for the professor?". Of course, I had another class that was so boring, my use of wi-fi allowed me to quietly chat with friends and do other work that needed to be done. Granted, it was a UNIX class, and there's only so much you can learn about vi, ls, cat...I just wanted credit for the course :)
  • Life is not MTV (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wazzzup (172351) <astromac&fastmail,fm> on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:43AM (#4997992)
    I'm going to have to side with the professors on this one. I recall an earlier post that it's the professor's fault for not providing an entertaining enough lecture. I'm sorry, but I would never hire a person that I knew felt that way.

    Life is not a constant stream of entertainment. The most rewarding things in life come from blood, sweat and tears and an education is one of them. While I think you should enjoy your chosen field of study, I don't think is has to compete on the same level as the latest Eminem video or an email of how your friend saw this really hot chick at Wal-Mart.

    Besides, I don't even think it's possible to make all courses entertaining to all. Do you as, say a programmer, expect to really get into Classic Greek Literature 540 as a form of entertainment?

    Does Sesame Street have a university?
    • by HanzoSan (251665) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:56AM (#4998054) Homepage Journal

      Why the hell do we need professors then? If they are paid just to show up and force you to look at them, what exactly is it that they do if they dont give good lectures?

      Hard work is one thing, but we are PAYING them, they arent free, they arent giving up anything here, we pay them to do what we want them to do, and thats give an exciting lecture.

      I dont think you'll find alot of college students who agree with your opinion that lectures should be boring and dull, people want their moneys worth.

      All courses can be entertaining to the majority of the people if the courses are interactive and engaging.

      You want to make a boring course like C programming fun? Find someone who can speak REALLY well, not someone from india with an accent.
      Find someone who can communicate the basics of programming but in a unique way, complete with jokes, and very detailed explainations including visual.

      The good lectures usually arent 100 percent focused strictly on that topic, they drift off alittle bit but the lecturer makes sure to get the point across, students get to talk and ask questions, talk about personal things, so that it feels more like group discussion instead of just blah blah blah blah where students just sit and listen.

    • Life is not a constant stream of entertainment. The most rewarding things in life come from blood, sweat and tears

      You work for the DMV, don't you? ;)
    • Re:Life is not MTV (Score:3, Insightful)

      by budalite (454527)
      Ah, Finally. Something to reply to. As an old guy returning to school, I had forgotten that good teachers at any level are the exception, rather than the rule. Teachers who are interested in whether someone else understands the material and will actually take the time to learn how to teach, learn how people learn, and care whether each and every student does the best s/he can are, unfortunately, in the minority. I have taken 4 classes at a major U. here in VA. Two of the teachers, one a professor, essentially mailed in their work. The third was simply incompetent and never should have considered teaching. The fourth, ah, the fourth, was a little lady, a "converted" Classics Prof. teaching CS I to a auditorium of newbies, made CS a joy. She translated her love of the subject , love of teaching, and concern for her students into a course where going to class was one of the highlights of my week.
      Sure, life's tough. You gotta take what you can get and do your best, often in spite of the obstabcles. I do wonder, however, how many careers were launched by that lady and how many careers were re-directed or just doused by the others. (ps. And why can't Classic Greek Literature 540 be interesting? Who would you rather talk to? Someone who talks to you because they have to or because they want to?)
  • As an... (Score:3, Informative)

    by craenor (623901) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:43AM (#4997994) Homepage
    Instructor myself...I would just declare certain lecture times to be "computer's down". When I'm trying to get across a critical point, I would make people close their laptops, stop writing away on their notes and just listen to me.

    When I'm confident that they've gotten the point or the majority of them had, I would then hand out an addendum to their notes covering what we just discussed.

    This would be a commonplace event, happening most likely once per classroom day.
  • by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:47AM (#4998013) Homepage
    By the time a student is of university age, it should be their responsibility to stay on task, not the teacher's to keep them there. Whether a student pays attention and takes notes and whatnot, or instead does his or her own thing on the Internet, their level of diligence will be reflected in the grades.

    It is the teacher's job to teach, not make sure that everyone is paying attention and doing their work. A good teacher will try to get everyone involved (it's especially funny when they call on a sleeping student to answer a question; that kind of embarassment solves a lot of attention problems). But it is not their job to assume the responsibility that ultimately belongs to the students.

    Now in grade school, this is a little more complicated, but that's a discussion for another article...

  • by rf600r (236081) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:48AM (#4998015) Homepage
    Ok, so studets are being rude and disrespectful, and teh solution is to unplug the network? Why not ask that students NOT use their computers during a lecture? You know, act like grownups?

    Don't give me this "I pay your salary BS." If you don't want to listen to the lecture, stay in your room and surf porn. But, if I'm the teacher, it is my duty to deliver what you paid me to deliver. If I ask you to kindly treat me with a tad bit of respect and close the lid on your laptop, then just do it.
  • by reallocate (142797) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:52AM (#4998037)
    This is this week's version of staring out of the the windows.

    But...

    1. Students ought not to be able to pass unless they pay attention in class.

    2. Teachers ought to say something not available elsewhere.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I attended a summer program for high school students last year, and we were given laptops with wireless access throughout campus. Sure it had some benefits, but overall it was a terrible, terrible idea.

    The main use that the laptops received was Kazaa and various Gnutella clients. This was mostly for downloading full length movies, pirated software, MP3s, and also for pr0n.

    During class a lot of people would just watch movies they downloaded, or play UT. Nothing like seeing a multiplayer deathmatch in the middle of class. IMing was also big, and it was always funny when someone forgot to turn off sound on their laptop.

    Why would people go to a program/pay for college just to watch pr0n and play games? I don't know. However, this just shows that wifi in class is a bad idea. One in ten will use it for education, but nine in ten will use it for Kazaa and AIM.

    Also, the class I remember the most from is the one where the professor made us turn off our laptops.
  • Battery life (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bazman (4849) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @09:56AM (#4998051) Journal
    We've considered working with wireless access technology in lectures for our students. The problem - battery life. Friends tell me that when you've got a wireless card talking away you might get an hour or so of battery life. Someone coming to a lecture with a half-charged battery is going to be in trouble when asked to download the homework questions at the end...

    The solution? Well, why not put power sockets in the desks? So much for wire-less. Might as well put network sockets in as well and give the kiddies 10Mb each instead of sharing an AP or two.

    Baz
  • We have WiFi in some, but not all of buildings at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My finding has been that professors generally don't have to compete with wireless internet, regardless of how good their lectures are. The students who are proned to pay attention and take notes will do so with or without distractions, and those who are a bit less, err, academically interested will generally find some other way to pass the time, whether this involves a different distraction, sleeping, or not attending the class at all. Professors who lecture generally only have this problem with students who don't care anyway. If the class involves participation, then the student doesn't have an option to goof off. I found that in my introductory computer science courses, which were not attendance mandatory, were almost completely free of WiFi users because the only ones who were attending were those who needed to learn the material, or otherwise enjoyed the lectures. (I fell into the latter category - there's a reason my COMP114 professor was North Carolina Professor of the Year.) The bottom line, WiFi misuse in the classroom is not a problem, but an indicator of a deficiancy with the way the class is taught.
  • Teacher's Ego (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CleverFox (85783)
    This comes down to the teacher's ego being hurt that someone wasn't listening to them, or what they have to say isn't really adding much to the required reading. I slept through half of college. I would go to class, put my head on the desk, and wake up at the end of class, nary the worse for it most of the time. Most teachers weren't doing all that great of a job explaining material above and beyond the textbook.

    The only teachers that hassled me about sleeping were those whose egos were personally diminished by my choice to ignore their lecture.

    I don't see sleeping in class as bad, or playing on one's laptop. If I had laptops in college, I could have done homework for one class in another!
  • by drcrja (473111) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @10:02AM (#4998086)
    From my experience there are two types of students. (1) Those who want a degree and (2) those who want an education.

    Usually, those who want an education are those who are paying attention in class.
  • It's catching (Score:2, Informative)

    by PaschalNee (451912)
    I recently saw a sticker on a window in London (dentist's office I think) for http://www.dont-go-online-here.com/ [dont-go-online-here.com]. Not much of a site but the fact that people are actually thinking about 'No Surfing' areas is significant.
  • How can a prof's lecture compare to playing a nice game of WarCraftIII or Age of Empires?

    I have been on both sides of the coin, so I think I have a very unique perspective on this.

    I was in a class with a boring prof, and I will (reluctantly) admit that I played Age of Empires in the back row of class one day. What can I say, I wasn't learning anything new and it was BORING! And to top that off, the prof had two hearing aids and is half blind ... so this wasn't hard to do ...

    ... on the other hand ... I have given pleantly of lectures myself to college students ....

    I pride myself on giving very interactive presentations, but sometimes you just can't spice up a lecture that is about as fun to listen to as it is to watch paint dry .... and one day, I did catch a kid playing a game on his PC during one of my talks (I was giving the talk in a PC lab). I was pretty pissed off, but I understood ... he didn't want to listen to that any more than I wanted to talk about it ... it was a BORING topic! I tried to spice it up and ask people questions so that they didn't fall asleep, but nothing could have saved that talk ...

    So lets just get down to it and give the solution:

    Students should only be permitted to use PC's, Palms, etc during LAB SESSIONS!

    Seriously, there really is no need for students to bring a lap top to a lecture unless they don't plan on paying attention ... and since they paid for the course, you'd think that they'd want to get what they paid for by listening to the information being passed from the professor to them. However, if it is convenient for them to screw around and day dream (or play on a machine in this case), then they will!

    Bottom line: Listen to lecture or (play video game, chat with friends about how silly the prof's hair looks) ... this is an easy one that only requires prof by observation ... QED.

    Just my $0.02 cents ...

  • They're not the ones paying thousands of dollars to attend school and goof off.
  • Well at my school... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tevye (551399) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @10:08AM (#4998119) Homepage
    Well at my school (RPI [rpi.edu]) we've got a similar setup, and in many of my classes I see lots of students on their laptops during class. It doesn't really matter that there's no real reason they'd need it for the class, they've still got it out. What I've seen on people's screens includes:

    supplementary material to the lecture (some reference PDF of quick notes, very handy if you forget some bit of C code, et al.),

    the lecture notes themselves (usually power point, sometimes PDF or HTML),

    work being done (it's nice to be able to write your code while the stuff is still fresh in your mind),

    Slashdot (imagine that)

    BattleTech armor guidelines (I guess it was more interesting than NP completeness)

    These are among other things. I do think it's nice to have instance reference, and to be able to do homework during class if a lecture isn't particularly interesting or engaging.

    That having been said, I don't bring a laptop. I don't find that any of those things need to be done during class, and that I can live without them until lectures and labs are done for the day. Not just that, but laptops can get a bit heavy after carrying the between a few classes. At least, in addition to other notebooks and texts.

    I might add that I don't take notes on my laptop either. I tried a few times, and while maybe some of you have had a different experience, I find taking notes on a laptop is very limiting. I draw lots of little diagrams and figures in my notes which is difficult to do quickly in most text editors.

    On the other hand, there is something to be said for laptops and wireless devices. Since we all are required to have laptops, labs are much cheaper. Rather than lots of desktop machines in a dedicated room, a few tables and chairs with CAT5 can be a fully functioning lab. This has its own problems (IM, Email, etc) but the room can be a small lecture room, or non-computer based class when the computer lab is done. This also worked in my high school [nmhschool.org], where laptops were required as well. Even for non-computer classes (e.g. English Lit) this had advantages, like being able to read free texts online without needing any paper copies, etc. It's a nice convenience.

    With wireless all of this becomes even easier, and any room is a connected room. No longer is the CAT5 needed, or the desktop machine. It's a great advance in convenience.

    Even after all that, I still try to take my computer labs in the actual labs with big desktop machines or terminals; I like the big screens and full keyboards and looking slightly up to the monitor rather than down. I still don't bring my laptop to class because I can take notes just fine on paper, if not better, and most things I'd need a computer for can wait until I'm done with class.

  • by Marcus Erroneous (11660) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @10:10AM (#4998127) Homepage
    As mentioned previously, it's college, not high school. If they don't want to pay attention, they don't have to as long as they accept responsibility for their actions and aren't interfering with the class. It's on them to pass the class and/or participate as required.
    What about the "cattle call" classes that everyone has to take and even the instructor doesn't want to be there? My son's intro to C++ class was like that and he surfed the web while in that class. And did just fine in it. When my daughter had taken the same class the year before, she had made similar comments about the class. The instructor was bored and wanted to be teaching more advanced Unix courses but had to teach the intro course. She was not helpful to the students that tried to get her help. My daughter also did fine in the class, but she, like her brother had already taken an introductory C++ programming course in high school.
    One of my instructors teaches his MIS course from Powerpoint slides that he just reads. Although capable of truly inspired teaching when he wanted to, he usually didn't (at least at the undergrad level. Ask me next year when I have to take him again post grad). He made attendance part of his grading above and beyond the university's policy of no more than 4 missed classes. Many times I sat in the back of his class and read my latest copy of Linux Journal or articles on my Palm. All of his class material was available on Blackboard before class. After 20+ years, I think he's bored too. Most of the class seemed to be only interested in achieving the minimum necessary to pass the course. Uninspired teaching, uninspired class, rote reading of slides; as they say, "Where's my motivation"?
    The better professors won't have to worry. They'll hold the students attention and not worry about those that insist on not paying attention. Most of those students that don't pay attention are either tourists anyway or being held back by uninspired curriculum or professors. If TAs are teaching and can't hold the class, they shouldn't be teaching. That's not what I've been paying for. From the article it appears to be a number of issues are involved (as usual). WiFi is still new enough on campus that both faculty and students are still working out the roles of themselves and the technology. The implementation of any new technology is a bumpy road. I think that what this article really highlights.
  • by HealYourChurchWebSit (615198) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @10:35AM (#4998267) Homepage

    Glenn Reynolds, author of the popular InstaPundit [instapundit.com] blog and a professor of law at the U. of TN offers this observation "I also tend to wander around the room a lot ..., which may discourage some of that behavior. And I tend to call on the students who don't seem engaged. But I don't make any particular effort to ensure that students aren't surfing or IM-ing or whatever. They're grownups. If they're willing to risk their grades, and to look dumb when they're called on, well, I'm willing for them to do that too."

    Basically the way I read it, is if a professor is engaged in teaching his/her class, then he/she isn't going to have a problem keeping the students engaged as well.
  • Guess what (Score:4, Insightful)

    by antis0c (133550) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @10:56AM (#4998377)
    This is college. The student is paying for it. If he wants to fuck off and browse the web instead of listening to lectures and taking notes, fine. As long as he's not distracting other students, let him waste his money. He'll only have to pay again to retake the class he failed.
  • whitelist? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BigBir3d (454486) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @11:04AM (#4998411) Journal
    Why not just have a whitelist of allowed IP's to access? It is not dificult to block access to certain ports also...

    Enough "Connection Refused" pages accompanied with loud embarrassing noises will probably cause students to look for other forms of entertainment, maybe even the prof?!
  • by ancarett (221103) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @11:16AM (#4998461)
    I have to say that rumours of our rage and angst are greatly exaggerated. I'd like to see more of my students with Wi-Fi equipped computers attending classes and using their equipment. I wish that more of our classrooms were equipped with computers and projectors for the professors, since I've integrated technology into my courses. It's wonderful when students can download files as you refer to them, bookmark websites you recommend during class or check out additional resources to bring more fuel to their comments in discussion.

    My rules are few: Sound alerts must be turned off during class (especially those annoying IM moo noises) and Wi-Fi network access must be disabled during tests and examinations (I don't want my students surfing the net for answers when they should be writing). If you can abide by those rules (and the general campus rules for Wi-Fi access) you're welcome to compute during my class!
  • by sjbe (173966) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @11:42AM (#4998618)
    Several points I'd like to make.

    People who aren't going to pay attention, will not do so even without computers to entertain them. They might just stare off into space with no alternatives but taking away computers doesn't mean they are paying attention.

    Being in class and doing anything besides participating in class in an appropriate manner is rude to the teacher and distracting your fellow students. The worst are people who come to class and then sleep. If you aren't interested, don't come. Which bring's me to my next point...

    Mandatory attendance in a college class is (in general) stupid. There are fairly few non-lab courses where attendance actually matters. If someone prefers to get their material out of a book, let them. If being in class is important to passing the class, the students will figure that out. Teachers should think of class attendance as feedback on the difficulty of the material and the quality of the lecturing.

    Conversely, if you (or your parents) are paying for a college education and you do not make every effort to get as much out of it as possible you are an idiot.

    Yes, surfing the net is often more interesting than a lecture, but even a boring lecture often has useful information. Even the worst lectures (and I've had some very bad ones) usually contain something worth knowing. You are going to be dealing with boring meetings, boring tasks, and boring people for the rest of your career. You might as well learn how to get the most out of them.

    The teacher's job is not to entertain you, it is to teach you. Effective teaching often correlates with being interesting to listen to but you can learn without being entertained.

    Finally, don't be so arrogant and assume you know what is important about a subject better than the teacher. There is usually a reason the teacher is lecturing on the material they choose. They aren't doing it just to annoy you.

  • Hmmm.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blankmange (571591) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @11:48AM (#4998656)
    As a both a student (undergrad & master's) and an instructor (technical), I can agree with the some of the points made here, but here is the crux:

    As a student, I made the classes I felt necessary and skipped the ones I felt worthless. I was mature enough to understand that if I goofed, my GPA suffered. No problems, however, as I graduated in the top quarter of my class, both under & post graduate. As an instructor, it can be very frustrating if you have students who are actively not participating in the class, but I also understand that if I don't have the material to make the class interesting, there is little I can do to keep their attention. My only concern is whether or not the students who are choosing to pay attention & participate are not affected by these (admittedly few) other students........

  • Dear Profs: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by liquidsin (398151) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @11:59AM (#4998714) Homepage
    Maybe if you were busying yourself with working with the students who *are* interested in your lecture, you wouldn't be so concerned with those who aren't. Maybe if you talked *with* your students instead of *at* them, and had an actual conversation instead of just reading the material straight from the text, you might find that some of the students who were surfing slashdot have perked up their ears and are now paying attention. Try it sometime.
  • Mesh networks! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by certron (57841) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @12:10PM (#4998797)
    If the teacher unplugs the access point, the wireless-enabled devices could just go ad-hoc or set up a mesh network and, through that, connect to the access point in the next room (hopefully). :-)

    It is still the responsibility of the student to learn the material, if they desire to pass the course in any reasonable fashion. The teacher doesn't *have* to give interesting lectures, but it is generally appreciated.

  • Demand attention? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kfg (145172) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @12:11PM (#4998806)
    Why the hell would I demand a students attention?

    It's the student who has voluntarily undertaken to pay huge gobs of money and invest huge gobs of their time to attend college.It was the student who voluntarily chose to sign up for my class. It was the student who chose to *show up* for class. I didn't leap out of my office, drive halfway across the country ( or the world), hold a gun to their head and insist they take my class.Hell, once they've signed up I don't even insist they attend.

    This isn't high school I think some of you have a hard time wrapping your heads around that one.If you don't wish to participate, stay home.It's that simple.

    Hell, you can even get an A in some of my classes without ever attending if the work you hand in deserves it.

    What I don't understand is if you would really rather be surfing the web or playing Quake why you don't just stay in your room and do it? Wouldn't we both be more comfortable that way?

    KFG
  • by FroBugg (24957) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @12:16PM (#4998827) Homepage
    I picked up a laptop over the summer. Small little Vaio. I don't get wireless access in most of my classrooms, but I do in some and in many places I can go between classes. I use my laptop for all my note-taking in class, even if I don't have internet access at the time.

    I believe that if I hadn't had this laptop with me, I wouldn't have gone at all. For three straight semesters I ended up dropping all my classes out of a sort of lethargy and unwillingness to make the commute to school. This gives some added value to being there, and as a consequence I don't mind as much going to class.
  • by BFaucet (635036) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @12:36PM (#4998918) Homepage
    Many people learn for the wrong reasons. I think learning should be enjoyable regardless of the material.

    I have a horrible memory and history was my worst subject in highschool and college. Does this mean I slept through all of my history classes? Believe it or not, no. I enjoyed many of my history teacher's lessons. I enjoyed listening and (more importantly) participating in the lecture. I still did poorly on many of the exams, but I was attentive in class and I really did learn a lot (in many cases, more than my higher-ranked peers.)

    I think there is a "wrong" view of education by students. Many go to college so they can put "whatever degree in blahdittyblah" on their resumes. This means they will work only as hard as they need to in order to get that on their resumes. While an impressive resume is important. An education should be why people go to college, not an impressive resume.

    I think this problem stems from how people are raised. In elementary/middle/highschool, people are rewarded for getting good marks on tests regardless on how they got that mark. If it was cramming the night before, or truly getting an understanding of the subject, they get the same mark, same reward. Most people (at least americans) tend to opt for the one that'll give them the most TV watching time (cramming the night before.) I hate to blame the parents (again) and TV (again) but I think parents shouldn't expose their young (0-6 year old) kids to much mainstream TV. Sure, let them watch PBS or even The Discovery Channel, but the networks that show nothing but colorful pictures with lots of noise should be used with extreme caution. Read to kids, encourage them to ask questions. Even more importantly, show them where to find answers and teach them how to think things through before asking questions.

    Showing kids how to learn and use logic at an extremely young age (while their minds are still developing) will encourage them to enjoy learning and will get them to go to school to learn and not just to get a paper with a mark on it. Besides, how much respect does a frat boy that managed to memorize some tests answers and forget them right after the exam get when they go into the real world? Oh right... they get elected for presidency.
  • by ethank (443757) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @12:41PM (#4998957) Homepage
    When I was finishing my undergraduate degree at UC San Diego, the campus was not yet fully wi-fi-ed. I was bored out of my mind because I had put off my GE's until the last possible time I could take them.

    The only thing that got me through it was my Ricochet connection in the class room. However I can say that it did distract me to such an extent in class that my grades suffered because of it. I actually ended up not passing one of the classes.

    That being said I'm involved in wi-fi-ing the art department at the university I'm currently at for graduate school.

    While it is true that teaching has to adapt to wi-fi usage, I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing to force it to adapt. Just like any disruptive technology, the repurcusions outside its immediate sphere usually leads to a balancing effect upon other actants in the network it disrupts.

    So basically: everything should adapt to pervasive connectivity, whether it likes it or not.
  • by Crash Culligan (227354) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @01:06PM (#4999167) Journal
    It's been mentioned enough times on this topic, but it bears repeating: technology has both good and bad points. Furthermore, given the extensive use of technology, a solution may exist which nobody's thought of yet.

    Good point: Wireless networking allows students ways to remotely research class topics outside the classroom. Yes they could go to the library before, or stay in their dorm rooms and look this stuff up, but the new technology allows that work to fit more neatly into campus life. Result: More opportunity to study.

    Bad point: Wireless networking allows students ways to slack off inside the classroom. Yeah, attention deficiency is nothing new in the classroom, but considering the things the modern laptop can do, its presence can be an awful temptation to those already inclined to play around. Result: More opportunity to ignore the teacher.

    Both are valid, and to take one side is to trivialize the other.

    As another aside, there's been some talk of whose fault it is students get bad grades. It's the teacher's responsibility to present the course's subject matter in a reasonable, easy-to-follow fashion. It's not his responsibility to spoon-feed the student a passing grade, no matter how undeserved.

    Rule of thumb: if one student does poorly in a class, odds are it's the student's fault. If almoast everyone does poorly in a class, odds are it's the teacher's fault.

  • by V4L1S (620027) on Thursday January 02, 2003 @01:18PM (#4999329)
    ... they could run something like Driftnet [ex-parrot.com] and possibly shame kids away from more blatant wastes of class time... or into getting some practical know-how with security.

    Give the kids a class-topic wiki/blog and let the computers become a tool for student-student, student-grad.assistant, and student-prof communication. The prof could bring a grad.assistant to each class and have him/her answer questions that students have about the lecture in near-realtime as they appear on the wiki/blog. Give shy students a way to ask questions. Bonus points for students that answer each other's questions before the grad.assistant.

    The profs are lagging behind the students. The students have rushed forward in a somewhat haphazzard fashion, but think of it as a case of spitballs and doodles. One doesn't end spitballs by taking away all paper or doodles by taking away all writing impliments. The best thing to do is to give the students something better to do with the tools. Some virtues that will draw their attention better than the available vices.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo. - Andy Finkel, computer guy

Working...