I’ve had a bunch of links open for I don’t know how long (too long), and I should clean them up before my browser crashes and I lose them all and kick myself. Well, that and I’m trying to get back in the habit of writing here, again. Habits, for what it’s worth, are terribly hard to create, unless of course they’re bad ones. The bad ones, like staying in bed reading fiction or watching TV or not doing your dishes or laundry? Those are easy. The good ones, like going to bed and getting up consistently at the same time, writing every morning, working on your gorrram thesis? Much much harder to establish.
A couple of weeks ago, I read about a professor at the University of Memphis banning laptops in her classroom. She apparently teaches in the law school, and felt that the laptops are terribly disruptive to her seminar-style lectures. Apparently she felt too many students were either attempting to take down what she said verbatim, being “fed” knowledge for later regurgitation, or were screwing around on the internet. Whatever they were doing, it wasn’t participating in the class, which was designed “primarily as a practice session for students to develop the skills outlined in the “Course Objectives.”” Plus, she felt the laptop created an invisible wall between her and her students, and the clacking of fingers on keyboards bothered her.
Frankly, this sounds like the words of a very insecure professor who can’t control her classroom. First and foremost, by banning laptops, you automatically out anyone with an invisible disability, the people who she cannot, by law, prevent from using laptops. Way to go – you either look like you’re playing favourites by letting one or two people use the computer, or you end up implying or outright saying that a student has a problem. Secondly, if this is truly a seminar class where students are supposed to be participating and learning in order to receive evaluation and grading, then those students ignoring class for the internet and not participating over the tops of their laptop? Mark ’em down, so long as they’re truly not learning the material and unable to participate in the classroom while taking notes.
I’ve been on both sides of the table long enough now that I feel very comfortable making broad comments like the above, simply because I know what it’s like in smaller seminar classes. Yes, there are a lot of eyes there, and it can be a bitch to engage everyone. But not everyone participates in the same manner, and instead of trying to force everyone into a luddite zone where only paper and pen are allowed, the professor should instead work on improving her lecture skills and ability to run the classroom.
Don’t want people mucking around on the internet? Lecture from the back of the classroom. Have the students move their chair configurations into a circle. Don’t just stand in the front of the classroom and assume that because you are paid to stand there you have an automatic authority with the students. Authority is earned, not a privilege.
Finally, it also sounds like someone who wasn’t raised in the era of computers, who don’t understand how natural and fluid it is for people to multitask in this augmented age. Again, the solution is to catch up, not to halt the progress happening at such a rapid rate.
Okay, I can close that link now.