Laptops in Class? “It’s Really Serialized Interruption.”

It’s finally happened to Gen-Y college students.  According to the Washington Post, Profs are clamping down on the use of laptops in class. As the Post puts it, Georgetown Law Prof David Cole’s lecture on democracy and coercion is a classroom cluttered with books, Thermoses and half-eaten muffins, but no laptops.  Cole has banned laptops from his classes, forcing students to take notes with paper and pencil, the same way their parents.To say that Cole’s ideas are unconventional is an understatement:  “This is like putting on every student’s desk, when you walk into class, five different magazines, several television shows, some shopping opportunities and a phone, and saying, ‘Look, if your mind wanders, feel free to pick any of these up and go with it.'”Professors have banned laptops from their classrooms at George Washington U, American U, College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia.But the best lesson was from a colleague of Cole’s who “unwittingly demonstrated how thoroughly the internet has colonized the classroom.  When Professor Peter Tague told students a canard about Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. stepping down, students promptly spread the news into the blogosphere.  Later in class, Tague revealed that the tip was false, part of a lesson on credibility, according to the blog Above the Law.”My grandson Evan, who appears in my blog, What My Grandson Learned About Lying, attends a prep school in Massachusetts where both laptops and texting are used in the classroom.  When I asked about their use, he said, “It all depends. If the teacher is not talking, it’s OK to text or use your laptop.  It’s absolutely not okay to use phone texting when the teacher is talking.  If you do, your phone is gone.”  I wondered how teachers enforced the rule.  “Well, my classes rarely have more than 20 kids in them, and then the teacher walks around whether they’re talking or not.  But you need your text phones because the teachers send assignments on them.”  And by the way, the Droid is the text phone de rigeur.It’s okay to use laptops to take notes when the teacher is talking, Evan says, because they have proprietary software for notetaking.Can students surf the net, I also wondered.  “You can, but you’re not supposed to.  It’s rare,” he said.In a fine private school like that teachers can keep a tight rein on texting and laptops, and obviously they do.  So the kids have cutting-edge tools, but they’re managed by the faculty.  An excellent teaching device that sets boundaries.Back to the typical response of college students to teachers who suggest they can surf and get involved in the lesson of the day.  You know the response.  GenYers are multi-taskers.  Diane Sieber, a humanities prof at Colorado University (one of my alma maters), tracked the grades of 17 laptop addicts.  At the end of the term their grade was 71 percent, “almost the same as the average for the students who didn’t come at all.”  Siebert also believes that those students also divert the attention of the students behind them.I’m not a Luddite.  I’ve been using desktops and laptops since 1983, before Generation Y could crawl.  You know the desktop.  The IBM with 5″ floppies and a price-tag that made my blood curdle.What do I do when consulting?  Usually I insist on no phones and no laptops.  Amazingly, my clients respond.  As I indicated in an earlier post, some companies have made rules about those issues.  I believe that’s a wise decision.The Washington Post article is here:  Wide Web of diversions gets laptops evicted from lecture halls.
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