Thursday, May 11, 2006

Internet access in law classrooms questioned

USA Today story discussing backlash against universal internet access in college and law school classrooms. Count me as part of the backlash. My school was an early adopter of universal classroom access, and the decline in class attention and the toll on informed student participation was obvious from the start.

Some of my colleagues argue that a good teacher will command attention if he or she has something interesting to say. I disagree. Maybe that's true if you teach one of the "cocktail party conversation" type classes (and I sometimes do) - cool current events issues that everyone has an opinion on even if he or she hasn't actually done the class reading - but if you are teaching something that is technical by nature, then why would you torture students by presenting them the perfect temptation - email, instant messaging, web surfing, video, and television all at your desk when the alternative is to try and understand some technical code provision? I think it's actually quite unfair to students to present them with overwhelming temptation and then say it's either the teacher's fault for not being fascinating enough or the student's fault for falling for temptation. I don't see television screens in the zazen room of the Zen monastary, and I bet there's a reason.

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