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Pop Quiz: Wifi in the College Classroom

I’m late for today’s Pop Quiz. Maybe I was too busy surfing the web?

I’ve seen the topic of wifi in the college classroom come up in faculty circles with a bit of controversy lately. Not that long ago, I was in college, and ubiquitous wifi was just around the corner. Now, students take laptops instead of notebooks, and they may even be using their phone in class for note-taking, audio recording, or answering questions with an app. Or, maybe they’re just checking Facebook again.

Some people are irked to the point of wanting there to be no more wifi made available as such. However, that won’t stop devices that use mobile networks as well. What’s going on, and who is to blame? Are students being irresponsible and not taking their studies seriously? Are the professors just not providing an engaging enough learning experience? Is technology itself to blame for the distraction itself? We’ve talked about this for high school before, but we assume that college learners are more personally responsible for their education, and thus are usually given more freedom in this arena.

How do you deal with, avoid, or actively use electronics in the college classroom? Have you changed your teaching style as a result, or enacted new policies to stem the tide of Facebook-surfing in class?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3pm ET.

Featured image cc quinn.anya on Flickr.

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Nicole

Nicole

Nicole is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at a small liberal arts college. Her home on the internet can be found at One Astronomer's Noise.

4 Comments

  1. June 13, 2013 at 10:39 am —

    I always thought it would be nice to have at least some classrooms equipped with Faraday shielding, with the only internet connection hard-wired in the front in case the prof needs it (I find the internet very useful for musical examples, for instance, since it saves me hunting down CDs).

    Such classrooms would also be handy for students writing exams, especially at schools more obsessed with cheating. I remember when I took my comps, I was given an ancient and scarily unstable library laptop expressly because they wanted to make sure I had no access to the internet during the exam. Of course, the internet still worked (not to mention I had my phone), but I got the pleasure of the added stress created by frequent slowdowns and near crashes any time I tried to do anything complex to the text (delete large sections, move things around) or save. If the damn thing /had/ crashed and lost my answers, it very likely would have gone out the eighth floor window along with my grad school career.

    • June 13, 2013 at 5:40 pm —

      Someone mentioned during this initial discussion (and I’ve heard this elsewhere) that there are FCC regulations that prevent such a thing? Technically, however, it would not be that difficult…

      Wow. Old laptops! At UVa we could use our computers for anything that was essay-based, but were bound by honor code not to check the internet anyway.

      • June 14, 2013 at 4:08 pm —

        I think I have heard such a thing as well re: regulations.

        My institution has an honour code but it is exceedingly clear that it is just a formality and (judging by absurd invigilation and enforcement) they don’t trust the students one bit to abide by it. It was a bit of a culture shock for someone from a small liberal arts school. The irony is, of course, that for all the theatrics they rarely follow through with punishment for academic dishonesty (in so far as I can tell…profs are not actually /allowed/ to know the outcomes of the cases, but I’ve never heard of anyone being expelled or even failing a class due to cheating).

  2. June 14, 2013 at 8:51 pm —

    I merely implement a no-device rule during class. It’s explained the first day, the second day, and once a week for the first few weeks. It’s in the syllabus. My rule is this: “If I see you using your device, you obviously have something better to do than be here in class, therefore I will ask you to leave and not return until next class.” I only ever have to make good on this rule once a semester, and I have no (visible) violations. Exceptions to the rule: I allow students to use their devices to write down dates and announcements at the beginning of class. I also allow a student to leave the classroom to take an important call, as long as the text/ring was is vibrate.

    I don’t generally allow computers to be open in class, but if a student demonstrates to me that they are taking active and substantial notes, I may let it pass.

    I’ve sat in on a number of classes to observe other instructors. I sit in the back, and, without exception, any student who has a computer open, is “multitasking” by using Facebook and other websites…and generally not taking notes.

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