I remember very clearly the first law class I took. I arrived just moments before the class started and sat in the back of the room which is generally my custom. I realized right away that every desk had power and an internet jack which I found kind of cool at the moment.
The person just in front of me (who intended to be in the back of the class before I showed up) turned around and asked me as I sat down, \”Hey, do you mind if I look at porn during class?\”
This event was memorable not just because of the absurdity of the question but it was one of the few times in my life that I was left speechless. Any number of obnoxious comebacks would have done but I was taken aback at not only the boldness of asking such a question but the concept of looking at pornography during a class on jurisprudence.
Having internet access in a classroom is simply a bad idea. I\’ve been to enough classes now to see that none of them have actually made use of that for an educational reason. People will play solitaire, check their e-mail, or even play World of Warcraft during class, occasionally switching back to Word to type in a few notes.
However, the University of Illinois, like many other universities is blanketing the campus with wireless connectivity, including connectivity in the classroom. Some locations make sense like the dorms or the airport. Others locations are a rather sad social commentary, such as the performing arts theater. I\’m not much for operas, but if I did go I\’d certainly want to be free from the digital leash of e-mail.
Wireless internet access provides no enhancement to the classroom experience and detracts much from it.
It\’s easy to blame students who don\’t want to give due attention to their studies, however, many instructors here are so obviously disinterested in teaching that their lectures are largely a waste of time. I\’ve encountered far more professors who spend lecture time reading out of the book or out of pre-printed lecture notes than professors who actually try to teach and provide solid material in class.
The provision of internet access to the classroom provides yet another incentive for students to tune out during class. While it would be easy to say that those who don\’t perform will just fail out, the problem is with the current tendencies, if the bulk of students start underperforming because of web surfing they\’ll just lower the standards.
John Bambenek is the Assistant Politics Editor for Blogcritics and is an academic professional for the University of Illinois. He is a freelance columnist who blogs at Part-Time Pundit and the executive director of The Tumaini Foundation which helps AIDS orphans in Tanzania with education. He is the current owner of BlogSoldiers, a blog-only traffic exchange.