Sunday, February 15, 2009

The choice is clear for me: laptop for notes only, Facebook can wait.

It is hard to believe, but the debate over computers in the classroom continues to rage. Starting with the Fall 07 semester, I've given an extra credit assignment asking students to write a short paper on the topic. The question they answer is "Should computers be banned?" Not surprisingly, a strong majority say "no". But 28% say "yes"! Let's look at their arguments:
"I know that as a student I should probably be for the use of wireless laptops in the classroom, but I know what really goes on during class." (AY)

"In my opinion, the classroom is a time for students to engage with each other. After all, isn’t the basis of an academic classroom to share, evaluate, and challenge each other’s ideas?" (MH)

"As a student...I see it all the time – students are focused on their laptops more than engaging themselves in the classroom discussion. Personally, I feel cheated out of my academic experience...{when} students would rather check their newsfeed than listen to what their classmates have to say." (MH)

"This is not high school anymore. Students come to class for their own benefits and should be able to decide how best to make use of their time" (MV)

"Turning off Internet access in the classroom will not magically transform an easily distracted or bored student into an active participant. There are many ways a student can distract themselves from a lecture in an Internet-free classroom, like doodling, passing notes or daydreaming. Does that mean we ban notebook paper next?" (AM)

"I feel that if the student is paying for their education, have their own laptop, and wish to surf the internet during their class than it is their right to do so." (J)

"By restricting access professors are serving as babysitters instead of instructors." (AM)

"I...find it to be distracting, whether I am personally distracted by own computer and the opportunity to play solitaire, or if it is from another student watching an episode of their favorite show." (AH)

"....students focus better when they do not have the “world” at their fingertips." (P)

"I approach every class with the same materials: a notebook and a pen." (Y)

"If the internet were not available to students they could focus better on the lecture. Although they might be busy doodling or sleeping, there is a greater chance of the student paying attention to the teacher if they don’t have computers distracting them." (J)
What do you think? Should computers be banned?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Does the Internet Make Us Dumb?

Last semester, I added a "debate" to the discussion about user-generated content. During class, we explored two provocative authors:
  • Doris Lessing, Winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature, says that the "inanities" of the internet has created a culture where people read nothing and know nothing of the world. (Read the entire speech)

  • Andrew Keen, Author of "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy", says that expertise is being replaced by rampant amateurism; opinion is mistaken for knowledge; and credentials, degrees, and years of experience mean virtually nothing. (Read this article for a taste of Keen or watch a hilarious interview with Steve Colbert)
Students divide into teams. One team argues that "The Internet IS Making us Dumb" and the other argues that "The Internet IS NOT Making Us Dumb". As you can imagine, the "IS NOT" point of view is easier to argue -- but I've been surprised by the thoughtful, well-supported, and passionate arguments to support the premise that the Internet IS making us dumb.

Maybe that statement alone proves the point?

What do you think? Is the Internet making us dumb?