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Is Wi-Fi Ruining College?

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the no dept.

Education 370

theodp writes "Over at Slate, Avi Zenilman has seen the real classroom of the future firsthand: Students use class time to read the Drudge Report, send e-mail, play Legend of Zelda, or update profiles on But not to worry - replace laptops with crumpled notes, and the classroom of the future looks a lot like the classroom of the past." From the article: "... when Cornell University researchers outfitted classrooms with wireless Internet and monitored students' browsing habits, they concluded, 'Longer browsing sessions during class tend to lead to lower grades, but there's a hint that a greater number of browsing sessions during class may actually lead to higher grades.' It seems a bit of a stretch to impute a causal relationship, but it's certainly possible that the kind of brain that can handle multiple channels of information is also the kind of brain that earns A's."

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Limiting Internet Access (4, Interesting)

unik (929502) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071392)

Maybe it would be possible to allow access to a local intranet only through the wifi? It wouldnt eliminate any Legend of Zelda, but it might keep the surfing to minimum.

Re:Limiting Internet Access (2, Insightful)

kgruscho (801766) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071416)

Or just let the teacher have a switch on the WAP, with one WAP per classroom.

Being a teacher that is what id like to do.

Re:Limiting Internet Access (1)

st0rmshad0w (412661) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071434)

Only works if your classrooms are a few hundred yards apart.

Re:Limiting Internet Access (1)

mattyrobinson69 (751521) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071558)

or if your classroom doubles as a faraday cage

Re:Limiting Internet Access (4, Insightful)

jbrader (697703) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071428)

Why should you want to limit it? This is college we're talking about. These students are paying for the priviledge of wasting thier class time. Thier tuition bought the wireless they can play Zelda during Phys 121 if they want. So long as they keep the volume down so that the student who want to pay attention (and who will end up being thier bosses later on) don't get distracted.

Re:Limiting Internet Access (2, Funny)

unik (929502) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071444)

In all fairness, if im paying tuition, I want whats best for me, not only what I think I want at the moment. Do I want a future in what im interested, or a shit grade but all the erotic stories online.

Re:Limiting Internet Access (2, Insightful)

Yokaze (70883) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071583)

Futhermore, universities are usually getting paid for having the reputation of producing good graduates and several get more money from alumni then from current students. If the students are goofing around too much, both revenue streams may soon become dry.
So, it is in their own interest to minimise the negative impact of WLAN in classrooms.

Re:Limiting Internet Access (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071455)

It's "their" god damn it...

Re:Limiting Internet Access (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071456)

I have in the past cut into the power-supply cables of students in front of me just enough that it won't be noticed, but will cause them a long and expensive beg-and-pray-exchange with their vendors.

Pretty amusing.

I hate those bastards. If you want to take notes, use paper. If you want to do something else that involves a laptop, stay the fuck out of my reach.

Re:Limiting Internet Access (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071482)


Re:Limiting Internet Access (2, Insightful)

CommiePuddin (891854) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071516)

Jesus. Instead of doing something like, I don't know, asking them to stop, or changing seats, you instead vandalize their property.

Do you expect people to slash your tires every time you park slightly crooked in a parking lot?

Congratulations, you're the lowest form of asshole. How the hell were they infringing on your learning experience anyway? If you can't help but watch the porn on their laptop, that's your problem. Adopt qualities that are less akin to a ferrett.

Re:Limiting Internet Access (1)

unik (929502) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071573)

I'm afraid i dont understand vandalize their property.. How is that present at all? What is their property?

Re:Limiting Internet Access (1)

Karma Farmer (595141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071591)

He said that if he saw someone using a laptop in a class he was attending, he would intentionally destroy their power cord.

Basically, he's somewhere between a total asshole and a criminal.

Re:Limiting Internet Access (2, Insightful)

EvanED (569694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071655)

The word "between" implies that he can't be both at the same time.

Re:Limiting Internet Access (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071498)

Well this is college. If you don't to learn, why come?

Bring anything. But make note-taking during lecture part of the grade. Have the Prof check for at least a page of notes, and just look at if they wrote anything down.

If you can make better than a C by not doing that, then you probably could have tested out of the class in the first place.

Classes with projects can be the exception, as most of the grade comes from that anyway.

Re:Limiting Internet Access (1)

The Amazing Fish Boy (863897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071531)

Bring anything. But make note-taking during lecture part of the grade. Have the Prof check for at least a page of notes, and just look at if they wrote anything down.

What difference does it make to you if I learn best by taking mental notes? Why don't you test my knowledge of the subject, instead of notes I (don't) write for myself on paper?

Re:Limiting Internet Access (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071600)

Well they could always assign homework for those that don't want to show that they paid attention.

But we run into the problem of just getting someone else to do it for you.

Should not require notes (2, Insightful)

sdaug (681230) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071577)

No, often times taking notes actually gets in the way. For some people it is much more important to spend the time they would be writing notes by actually paying attention more -- especially when the professor just uses what is in the book. Thus, often times you can just use the book as your notes and worry about comprehension while in class, not in the time afterwards. That is truly efficient use of time.

Re:Limiting Internet Access (1)

mordors9 (665662) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071545)

"These students are paying"? Maybe in some cases. How many of them have Daddy and Mommy footing the bill with no clue that Junior has found yet another way to waste their money? Or in other cases it is the taxpayer of the State paying their way. I am sure all of them would appreciate the results of their tax money at work.

Re:Limiting Internet Access (1)

koonat (914245) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071443)

This is a brilliant idea.
While we're at it, let's take all the books out of the library that aren't directly connected to an assignment.

Stop handicapping everyone.

College costs (a lot of) money - and anyone who's too stupid to take advantage of their time there doesn't deserve it.

By the time you're in college, you should know how to handle your time, you should know how to study, and you certainly know how to pay attention. If you don't pay attention and you fail - you're a failure despite the reason. If you can slag off, play zelda and browse 'facebook' (please kill youselves) -- and still pass the class -- then the only problem is that you've exposed how useless the college experience is.

Re:Limiting Internet Access (4, Insightful)

Janitha (817744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071458)

By personal experience as a College Student who use wifi in almost every class, I don't think how I can go without it. I think it has greatly improved my learning experience since its like a library in front of you. For example, say your in a ethics class and they bring up the topic of some act or case, just google or use wikipedia to look it up. Your in physics and you need a quick reference or more graphics and illustrations on a certain theory, simple: just search it. If it wern't for the laptop/internet, I (or anyone) would ever bother to look that information up later.

And what about the times when the prof is going on and on about things that you have clear understanding, honestly everyone was just falls asleep or skips the class, or you can use that time to look up some information on the subject/topic the prof just talked about or is about to talk which is much more efficient use of the time while still keeping a ear open to see if anything interesting is said be the prof. This helped me understand the lectures and material much better (than those days when I don't take my laptop).

If you are playing games or surfing stupid websites that the students choice and you shouldn't blame wifi or laptops for that, the student is responsible. But if you just take wifi out of the class room, then all the students who use internet connection in class rooms are the ones who will suffer.

Re:Limiting Internet Access (1)

OxygenPenguin (785248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071564)

I totally agree with this. My school was wi-fi saturation in the classrooms, and some of the profs here have taken to implementing a no-laptop policy. Granted, the main prof who is causing problems found a student watching Desperado last year, but the rest of us actually benefit from it. It's the responsibility of the school nor the professor, but the student of their own education.

How can you think about this NOW?! (-1, Offtopic)

Work Account (900793) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071403)

Get your priorities straight people!

We may use cell phone traffic to monitor auto traffic!

Clearly we need another post about it!

So in case you missed it the last four times... 3247&tid=158&tid=215&tid=193 [] 45248&tid=126&tid=215&tid=158 [] 01/159241&tid=193 [] &tid=215&tid=126 []

Curious how... (1, Funny)

ashitaka (27544) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071405)

"Browsing Slashdot" is omitted.

Partly educational perhaps?

Re:Curious how... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071477)

Sadly, browsing Slashdot in class is actually what I do!

Re:Curious how... (1)

mcslappy (830989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071553)

same here, i first started reading slashdot during a 9am psychology lecture

Browsing vs Looking up definitions (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071410)

so long browsing sessions drop grades (because the students are ignoring the professor)

and short but frequent sessions increase grades (because students are looking up wtf the teacher is talking about)

Seems pretty strightforward.

Re:Browsing vs Looking up definitions (3, Interesting)

triplepoint217 (876727) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071520)

A few years back my grandfather was teaching a class on at least several occasions a student with a laptop would look up information he was lecturing about and then add current examples, other information and the like. It took my grandfather by surprise a bit, but he said it was actually quite beneficial overall. Just like all technologies, it can be misused, but it can also be put to good use.

Re:Browsing vs Looking up definitions (1)

SECProto (790283) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071526)

If this article is about college...
The kids are paying for it. If they want to spend 4000 bucks on tuition to sit in a classroom and browse the internet, well...

An "A" is an "A" Studen (5, Insightful)

MLopat (848735) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071412)

FTFA: "There are about 100 students in the Columbia University lecture I'm currently attending, and about 10 have laptops. (The lecture consists mostly of grad students in their late 20s, so the ratio is a bit low.) I can see four screens from here; only one person is actually taking notes. Another is looking at the registrar's Web site. The other two keep checking their e-mail."

So the real question is, would these same students pre-occupy themselves with something else if they didn't have their laptops open to browse? Its reasonable to conclude that they have a limited attention span as it is, so whether they're sending email, talking on an IM client, or checking out the hot blond two rows down, they weren't going to being paying attention in their English 101 lecture anyways.

Re:An "A" is an "A" Studen (4, Interesting)

snilloc (470200) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071468)

If there had been wifi at my college when I was there, I might have actually attended a few classes that I chose to put a lower priority on, knowing that I could get other things done while in class.

It's a tool (5, Insightful)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071423)

The internet is a tool just like a notepad. I can sit and doodle all day in my notepad instead of taking notes if I wish to. Does that mean notepads are suddenly bad for studying?

The problem is peope abuse the tool to do other things, so they lose focus which ends up making them worse off in the long run.

Wifi is not the problem here, giving it to people who want to dick around is.

Re:It's a tool (2, Insightful)

KylePflug (898555) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071618)


I'd hate to see laptops taking away because some idiot is abusing them. That idiot will fail the class; he would have failed the class without it too, if only by sleeping or reading a book or cheating and getting caught or whatever.

I bring my laptop (an old Toshiba Tablet PC) to every class I go to at my college and usually have it on my desk for the majority of the class time, unless it's "Listening to Music" and we're watching some DVD or something. Have I used my tablet's wi-fi to hop on facebook once or twice? Yes. Have I checked my email here and there? Yes. The catch? Usually I do these things for legitimate, school-related purposes. I collaborate with project partners on facebook. I use email to communicate with professors. If the professor is actually talking, I'm probably not going to be on wi-fi, but rather in GoBinder taking notes on hte Tablet. I've got a 150mb GoBinder file full of handwritten notes if the professors want me to prove I've been listening.

Admittedly, part of my motivation is that I've got a weak battery and so I tend to only flip the wi-fi switch on for a few minutes at a time if I'm going to use it at all in class. The biggest part of my motivation? I'm paying thousands of dollars a year to go to school here. If I don't do well, I lose my scholarship, and then I'll be paying THREE TIMES as much to go here. Why in God's name would I spend that kind of money on something and then dork around on facebook all class until I flunk out?

Re:It's a tool (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071628)

It's a tool

You're a tool!

Re:It's a tool (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071652)

I can sit and doodle all day in my notepad instead of taking notes if I wish to. Does that mean notepads are suddenly bad for studying?
To me, that's somewhat funny because it's true... []

Browsing helps ... to a point (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071425)

Once the "point of information intake benefit" is reached, the continuance of information intake is detrimental to success because there's no time left for action. Since you're reading Slashdot, you like to take in information, but if you're just a lurker, you're not taking any action [at least not here] with the information you take in. The world pays, based on results that it sees, and a full brain looks the same as an empty one to the average employer or professor.

For me... (4, Funny)

Chickenofbristol55 (884806) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071426)

...I would be tempted to play CS:S in class. Doubt that would help my grades much.

professor "You see, you must first find the limiting reagent, then..."


professor "What in god's name was that?"

*raise my hand from the back of a crowded study hall* "Me pwning"

Re:For me... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071555)

You're an idiot.. Fuck off out of Slashdot and do us all a favour.

Run a chat room (3, Interesting)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071427)

If everyone has a computer(in some labs, and in the future), a monitored chat room can help learning a ton. For example: The teacher says something obscure, and the students want to know what it is, they can chat among their peers instead of disturbing the lecture. If no one knows in the class, they can interrupt the teacher. All talking would be logged so the teacher can see who's abusing the system after class.

Re:Run a chat room (1)

unik (929502) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071506)

That actually sounds pretty good. How many times have I been shit on because I was asking a legitimate question out loud when I shouldn't have been.

College should prepare students for jobs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071429)

...where they use work time to read the Drudge Report, send e-mail, play Legend of Zelda, or update profiles on

the more things change the more they stay the same (2, Insightful)

PrinceAshitaka (562972) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071431)

Wi-Fi wont ruin colleges, just the students in them. If a student chooses to surf in class, that is the students problem, not the schools. It will still take the same intelligence and smarts to get decent grades. Some students will be able to surf in class. Many others wont. I was able to skip hundreds of hours of lecture time and still got out with a degree.

Re:the more things change the more they stay the s (1)

Taladar (717494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071551)

It takes intelligence and smarts to get decent grades? All I noticed was lots of studying stuff (the bad way: the way you forget it a few weeks after the test). Perhaps we should fix our education system so people actually learn something before we blame students for not paying attention.

How they handle it at Harvard (Business School) (4, Interesting)

jwachter (319790) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071433)

I'm a student at Harvard Business School, where they have a fairly interesting solution for handling this problem. While every campus building has wireless access, all the access points in the classroom buildings require a web based log-in that checks your student ID versus your class schedule. If you're scheduled to be in class at that moment, you are denied wireless access to the internet (in any classroom building).

Draconian, perhaps, but very effective at keeping us focused in class.

Re:How they handle it at Harvard (Business School) (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071465)

and thereby (in my opinion) completely defeating the supposed purpose of HAVING wifi in the first place. why would they have wifi access in classrooms if you can't use it while you're supposed to be in class?

Re:How they handle it at Harvard (Business School) (2, Insightful)

jwachter (319790) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071524)

and thereby (in my opinion) completely defeating the supposed purpose of HAVING wifi in the first place. why would they have wifi access in classrooms if you can't use it while you're supposed to be in class?

A very good point. Two possible responses
(1) the admins want the internet wirelessly available in common / collaborative work spaces in the class buildings, which their solution still allows (as long as you're not "collaborating" during class time)
(2) genuine lack of foresight (as you suggest)

Probably a bit of both...

Re:How they handle it at Harvard (Business School) (4, Funny)

snarkh (118018) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071474)

Do they also implant a chip in your brain, which cross-references the class schedule limiting your access to inappropriate memory during class?

How they handle it at Georgia Tech (5, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071509)

Tech has a good solution to this problem too: they let you do whatever you want, but if you don't understand the material they fail you and kick you out. It's effective at keeping us focused (enough) in class, and also isn't draconian.

Re:How they handle it at Harvard (Business School) (1)

coolcold (805170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071525)

so its time to swap id with my mates? ;)

Re:How they handle it at Harvard (Business School) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071528)

If you're scheduled to be in class at that moment, you are denied wireless access to the internet (in any classroom building).

So, if I have a big presentation to finish for my second class, I can't skip my first class and work on my big presentation?

What a bunch of idiots.

The school does not act in loco parentis. And these are MBA students paying tens of thousands a year, not too mention their lost income while they are in school. They can decide for themselves when to surf the web.

Draconian, perhaps, but very effective at keeping us focused in class.

If wireless is disruptive to the classroom, there is a much better solution - don't put wireless in the classrooms.

Again, what a bunch of idiots.

Re:How they handle it at Harvard (Business School) (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071529)

And if you want to use the web to look something up about class you can't while you are in class?

Heres my take on draconian systems in colleges, if I'm there paying money for it, I should be able to go as I like, surf if I like, skip class as I like.

Re: Same at Vanderbilt Law (1)

tony1343 (910042) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071546)

Same here, except one of the reasons they do it, is so other classmates can't IM you answers when you are being called on. Law schools use the socratic method, not lectures. Actually, it is up to the professor if you are allowed on the internet or not during class.

Re:How they handle it at Harvard (Business School) (1)

PrinceAshitaka (562972) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071549)

I don't think you know what the word draconian means. A draconian law would be cutting off your hand for stealing. Not being allowed to surf the internet in class is NOT draconian.

Re:How they handle it at Harvard (Business School) (4, Insightful)

NMerriam (15122) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071550)

Great, yet more evidence that business schools don't know anything about motivating employees or customers. Thank God someone is there to teach the MBAs of the future that the internet is useless except for marketing and DRM verification!

Re:How they handle it at Harvard (Business School) (1)

magefile (776388) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071609)

There goes checking your schedule when you're late ("Oh, shit, I had PHYSICS today?"), the last minute panicked print job ("Damn cheap Epson ... I'll print on the way to class"), the IM with your study group ("hey guys, my 12 oclock was canceled today, do you want to meet in the student center" or "hey, I'm in bio - we have a test next week, want to study tonight"). Granted, there are frivolous uses, and I'm as guilty of 'em as the next guy - but don't take away this powerful tool.

Also ... I'm sorry, you said you go to HBS? Dude, university for UNDERGRADS is supposed to be for adults, and you're telling me your grad students aren't capable of handling a little responsibility? No wonder students here love to make fun of you!

zTetris (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071445)

I spent much of my high school calc class playing zTetris on my TI-86-- and so did half the class. :)

It's true (1)

emplynx (735511) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071448)

I had to stop bringing my laptop to class when I was finding that I spent more time on Slashdot and Facebook than I did paying attention. It did me OK in some easier classes last year (it kept me awake), but now my sophomore year, I can't handle the distractions. I find I pay attention better doodling than surfing the internet, because doodling is even more mindless than the internet (yes, it's possible).

This is no surprise (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071450)

The casual relationship between multitasking and higher grades is no big news. People with ADD get bad grades... duh. Seriously, this is only one incidental aspect of a well known relationship. The real news will be when browsing/surfing is supporting or augmenting students in ways that were not predictable.

The really good part of information tools is that they allow us to multitask on our own time, not the time schedule of others. The article hardly lends any time to whether or not the students who are surfing in class know the material well already or not. The wide variety of subject matter knowledge held by the students determines their own personal need to listen intently or not. If they don't require it, multitasking is a good use of time, and students who can multitask well will make good grades whether there is Internet access or not, likewise, students who cannot multitask will not make as good of grades.

Multitasking in a school environment means that you don't have to shut off the parts of your thinking that are not fully focused on the matter at hand.... you may be in a poli-sci class, but your thinking is on a project that you are working on for another.

There are three kinds of lies... lies, damned lies, and statistics!

My experience at WPI (2, Informative)

Bagels (676159) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071454)

In my one class where nearly everyone uses a laptop (that's IMGD 1000, part of the Interactive Media and Game Dev major) I've noticed that several of the students are browsing, even playing games during the lectures. Whenever I brought in my own laptop, I got sucked in myself; it was sometimes helpful to be able to bring up online articles relevant to class material, but I usually got completely sidetracked and lost the thread of discussion. I made a conscious effort to ditch the computer, and it's greatly improved my focus in-class, though I still get occasionally distracted by the fellow playing Lunar at the end of the row.

What's the fuss about? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071457)

Ever since there has been college, there has been a set of people that go and don't finish. There has been a set of people that cannot finish, no matter how hard they try. There has also been a set that seem to have enough together to take it seriously and do well too. There is also usually a set of people that can screw around as much as they want and still somehow succeed at it.

This just seems like another one of those IQ tests that college is all about. I watched people fail out because of games and such. When staying up all night playing Civ is a stronger motivation than studying then that's how it is. Same with the internet. If you're one of those people then maybe taking a couple years off to work might be what you need before you can take college seriously. You can save yourself a lot of money and heartache if you recognize that quickly.

Only if you're browsing ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071461)

for the best price on prewritten papers. Now if we can only break the monopoly the acredited colleges have, we could just get an online degree that's worth something without having to go to college at all. Hey! Maybe we can outsource going to college. Oh wait! We already have.

students use time on the internet, news at 11 (3, Funny)

Nept (21497) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071462)

use class time to read the Drudge Report, send e-mail, play Legend of Zelda, or update profiles on

Thus preparing them for the corporate world?

Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071464)

The reason we go to class is to put ourselves in a situation where there is nothing to do except learn. We go to the gym because that way we won't stop exercising after 10 min like we would at home.
All ways to fight our innate laziness.

It doesn't matter how many distractions you have.. (1)

Analogue Kid (54269) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071471)

If you're not there to learn, you won't.

Effects on others (4, Interesting)

rmcd (53236) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071473)

I teach and find laptop abuse to be an issue. The Slate article misses the real problem, which is not that the student checks out (the article correctly notes there are lots of ways to do this), but that others can see the laptop screen. Suddenly there is a group of five students giggling about something. I've had students complain about the distracting laptop usage of others.

I don't know what the right solution is, since I think that in theory it's fantastic for students to have a laptop to take notes, perform calculations, and look up related issues during class. But it's a real problem when the abusers distract a group of students. I suspect that shutting off internet access during class is the best practical solution.

Re:Effects on others (1)

B1ackDragon (543470) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071635)

I've thought of this quite a bit myself, as I come from a school [] which furnishes laptops to all students and faculty and has complete wireless coverage. Also, I hope to be a professor someday myself (hopefully, grad school here I come!)

Personally, I wouldn't mind if students waste their time in my class, but as you say, if they start wasting others' time (more often than not against their will, I've been sucked in by someone playing Quake 3 across the room) I'd be royally pissed off. There are plenty of reasons to allow unrestricted access, but no reason to disrupt class.

I think the method I'll have to use at some point is just to be vigilant for abuse like that, and ask troublemakers to leave class for the period. I guess I will have to make sure I can wield power like that before doing so however, I don't know what the policy usually is for asking students to leave classes at the university. (Though I do know that at my school, my fiancee is asked to leave quite often for coughing because the professor is a germaphobe. Heh.)

Job (4, Insightful)

mikejz84 (771717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071480)

If professors can get away with just giving the powerpoint enclosed with the textbook, we should be able to get away with going online.

Killswitches. (4, Interesting)

saintlupus (227599) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071481)

Speaking as someone who works in college IT, I've heard from more than one colleague that the same faculty clamoring for wireless and technology in every classroom are the ones now clamoring for killswitches so that the students can't use it during their classes.


It's sort of like when we put projectors with laptop hookups in all of the classrooms in nice, integrated bunkers and then they decided that the laptops were too heavy to carry, and they wanted desktops permanently installed in there are well. Whee! I'll never understand why a professor can carry three different NPR tote bags chock full of paper, and the four pound iBook they've been issued is the breaking point.


It's the curriculum, stupid (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071483)

The last 12 grads I interviewed were all top ranked grads from "great" universities. In terms of business sense, they were morons.

One even thought he was smarter than I was, and said so. $100K in debt, 5 years lost?

I've seen what my younger brother and older cousin got from college: unemployment and bad attitudes.

Re:It's the curriculum, stupid (1)

Hott of the World (537284) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071537)

Wow. Someone actually stated to an interviewer, "hey, uhm.. also, I'm smarter than you!" I mean, sheesh.. they should at least teach these kids to interview for a job or something.

Thank god I have tons of experience from trying to get scholarships. There's no one "to be nicer to" than someone about to pay for your college.

Re:It's the curriculum, stupid (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071575)

Thats when you say

"I guess you dont wanna work for a stupid guy. Bye."

Re:It's the curriculum, stupid (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071588)

Thanks to parents who put away some money into an RESP for me, my tuition scholarship, and co-operative education program where I worked every other semester in my area of study, I came out 5 years later ahead a little bit in the money department, and it was far from time being lost. More like Time Well Spent (TM).

Re:It's the curriculum, stupid (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071643)

Looking for a job in the 5 figures?

Re:It's the curriculum, stupid (1)

Karma Farmer (595141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071631)

One even thought he was smarter than I was, and said so.

Oh dear... I wouldn't go bragging about that in a public form. That was his way of telling you that he'd already decided there was no way in hell he'd ever work for you.

Dadgum youth of today... (4, Funny)

Urusai (865560) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071634)

When I was a lad, working at the shoe factory at 12, I didn't have none of them fancy "educations". We had to work hard, and maybe at the end of the year, Mr. Jones would give us an extra tuppence for Christ's Mass. I worked my way up the corporate chain, first as senior tongue stitcher, then journeyman heeler, all the way up to lace inspector, and I did it though hard work, gumption, pluck, and sheer moxie.

This youth of today expects their fancy degrees and book learning to get them a big shot job in the city without the perserverance and elbow grease we old-timers had to invest. Why, just t'other fortnight, this young whippersnapper came strutting into the factory like Little Lord Fauntleroy, looking for a job. When I asked him if he was willing to dedicate his life to the High God of Shoes, to prostrate himself before the Terrible Majesty of Zapato, He Who Shods Man, I swear a slight look of unbelief crossed his naive visage as he politely excused himself and fled the factory, no doubt to go read another book on how to be mighty smart but ignorant of the ways of the world. Pfeh! Run ofta yer Ivory Tower, you Harvard dandy!

Not the Universities nor the Professors problem... (2, Informative)

Whatchamacallit (21721) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071486)

Not the Universities nor the Professors problem...

If I were teaching, I would tell everyone that I get 'paid' and the school gets your money whether or not you pass or fail. Grow up, this is college. Look to your left and look to your right, next semester either one or both of those individuals will no longer be here.

In order to pass this course, you will need to do all of the assignments on the syllabus and turn them in on time. You will need to attend all the lectures and read the assigned reading. You will need to spend time studying and researching your own answers and you will need to participate in class discussions. You will get out of this course what you put into it.

Now we have some very cool technical toys to share and use in this course but it's up to you to not let them get in the way of learning. So go ahead, surf away and play stupid games, chat with your friends, take a nap on the bean bag chairs, etc. But if you fail this class, it's your own darn fault. If your parents are paying your way, then you will have to explain to them why you failed. There is no such thing as a parent teacher conference in the real world!

Is the study realistic? (2, Insightful)

mpoulton (689851) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071487)

The Cornell researchers studied browsing habits in classes by giving students school-owned laptops that were known to track their browsing habits. Would people browse normally under those conditions? Also, the students being studied were probably not technophiles -- otherwise they would have their own laptopts, and not likely participate in the study. Technophiles in general have very different computer usage profiles than the general population. In my experience, it seems we are much more better at multitasking, and are better able to use computers while simultaneously interacting with the rest of the world. It looks like this study did not actually investigate how *current* laptop use by students who own them affects performance. Instead, they investigated how the *addition* of a school-owned, monitored laptop to a non-techy student's repertoire changes their performance.

As a College Student... (4, Insightful)

Starji (578920) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071492)

I can relate somewhat to what the writer of the article is trying to say. The computer in the classroom (especially with internet access) is just a distraction. In my experience with my own laptop, it's often true. If I have the laptop out then I'm usually not paying all that much attention to the professor. When he's talking about ip packet fragmenting, I'm playing Earthbound, or just browsing the web. Here's the trick though, I'm not doing this in classes where I actually want to pay attention. My networks class for example, is an example of a class where I don't want to pay attention. The professor will go on and on about something not related to the course materials for the day, and I've had a fair amount of networking experience in high-school that whatever concepts he throws out I understand immediately, so the rest of the lecture ends up being pointless. In contrast, in my Senior project class we go over things that are new to me and are useful to me in a format I don't fall asleep right away. And it's not like the computer and internet in the classroom are just a distraction. I have used it to look up facts and extra information about the lecture before.

So is wifi ruining college? No more than any other service provided on campus. I can still shut down the laptop and not pay attention to the professor the old fashioned way, like reading a book, or sleeping. A boring professor is a boring professor whether there's wifi or not. It's my choice to use it knowing the consequences of my actions may lead to lower grades, and as long as I'm not disturbing or otherwise interfering with my classmates who actually want to pay attention, I don't see the problem.

Re:As a College Student... (2, Insightful)

MoneyT (548795) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071547)


This is the real problem. Go to a class where the professor is engaging and entertaining, where the material taught is relevant and the students are engaged. You'll notice a lot less people slacking off.

GASP. (4, Funny)

DakotaK (727197) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071499)

From my own expereince, every single person that brings a laptop to programming lectures is either talking on AIM, surfing Facebook, or playing a game. This really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone - the internet is more fun than doing work or paying attention. .gif []

Yesterday versus Today (1)

bsd4me (759597) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071513)

What is the difference between students reading the paper, doing the crossword, or sleeping during class (ie, what went on when I was in school) versus Internet use during class? Both scenarios just represent students not paying attention. In general, students who don't pay attention get lower grades.

Re:Yesterday versus Today (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071621)

At least when the student is reading the newspaper, the lecturer can easily see that the student is not paying full attention to the lecture. With laptop screens all pointing to the back of the room, the lecturer has no idea if the students are note taking or goofing off.

Who's ready for LAN 101? (1)

Mooga (789849) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071543)

As a CS student in college, YES people talk on AIM, YES people Torrent, YES people watch movies, and YES people do sit in the front row and play WoW. This happens all the time and HELL, I do it once in a while too. But it is also useful. Downloading the most resent lectures. Taking notes. Talking with other people in the class. Is it a distraction? Yes, but there is no way to stop that. If you take away wi-fi there will still be people playing Doom 3 and watching movies.

Good in the right hands (1)

przemeklach (905526) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071563)

In my class there are about 7-8 people that bring laptops in. Most of them play games and do nothing to do with the class; however there are a couple of us, including myself, that do actual school work. I mostly take notes, follow along with my own slides, or google the topics that the teacher is talking about. The best thing about this is that if there is a lecture that is absolutely boring or covers things I aready know I can work on labs. This is a great time saver for me because I don't end up wasting time listening to useless lectures.

Latops have helped me (2, Interesting)

vga_init (589198) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071568)

I've been toting my laptop off and on since high school, and until a few years into college I was one of the only people in my class to be doing this.

In high school, I used it to take notes; I can type quite a bit faster than I can write, and they come out looking a bit more organized and legible than they otherwise would have. Also, having a computer for some reason would help me stay focused; I was practically raised on computers, and you might say it is sort of a comfort thing. Whatever it was, it helped me study.

In college, things became more interested. I started off taking primarily computer science courses. I taught myself to program when I was younger, and this process involves a great deal of fiddling around with new concepts in order to fully grasp them. I would sit in class during the lecture compiling away, doing examples that the instructor was giving me and seeing how I could push the envelope. On one occasion I was even able to correct my instructor on the usage of particular syntax.

Being the kind of person that learns scientifically (I like to observe the process and alter test conditions to evaluate the results), a computer is a very nifty tool for giving me the means to gasp the material during the lecture. While my original methods did not employ the use of wifi, having connectivity would be useful in case I needed to look up or download something on the fly; I would just have to be disciplined enough to turn off my instant messenger and mail client so that I don't get too distracted.

Usually I am opposed to computers in the classroom because of such things as funding and underemployment (of the machines themselves), but when the computers are owned by the students themselves, then I'm able to see more benefits (if you're going to pay a grand for a gadget, you're going to learn how to use it). Whether the computer ultimately helps or hinders your classroom experience depends on how good of a student you are, and typically good/bad students get the grades they deserve with or without wifi-enabled computers.

This happens with wired computers, too (1)

newrisejohn (517586) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071570)

I'm a TA for two of the GIS classes this semester. Considering the nature of the course relies on having a computer, the class is held in the computer lab. Students are often checking their email or browsing the web. Some of them are distracted for the whole lecture. Some students don't need a laptop (or even a computer) to be distracted in class.

From the otherside of the laptop (2, Interesting)

hahiss (696716) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071571)

As an instructor, I generally discourage students from using laptops for notes. I teach philosophy, so it is generally more important to be listening and occassionally jotting down notes than it is taking dictation about an endless series of facts. (YMMV in other fields.) Students that bring laptops (and who do listen) tend to have gotten lots of bits of fact but generally have no clue how to use them to create integrated knowledge.

Of course, I also encourage my students *NOT* to come to class if they aren't going to pay attention---whether that means sleeping, reading the paper, texting friends, etc. Actually, if I catch that sort of behavior, I ask them to leave. They get no credit for coming to class, so either they find a way to be motivated or do whatever else they prefer.

What does this do to P2P? (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071578)

What does this do to P2P user tracking. Are campuses as good at identifying Wi-Fi P2P users to the RIAA as they are dorm room wired users?

I Play Games (1)

miyako (632510) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071582)

My school has campus wide wifi as well as power and ethernet jacks in most of the rooms. About half the rooms are combination lab/classrooms where every seat has a computer in front of it. Most teachers seem to realize that computers will be used for games and generally do not seem to care as long as the people playing the games are not bothering other students. I can recall well a discussion in my Sociology class a couple of semesters ago. I was participating in the class discussion fully- answering questions, asking questions, making counter points, etc. I was also playing Sonic the Hedgehog on my laptop. At one point in the discussion the professor asked me what I was doing on the computer, and I honestly replied "Playing Sonic professor". She didn't seem to be all that upset replied simply "Well, if your going to during class move to the back, it's distracting the people behind you- they're watching you play instead of paying attention to class."
There are a lot of times during class I find that splitting my attention between a game of Sonic or Tetris or Frozen Bubble allows me to keep half a mind on the game, and half a mind on the lecture, whereas otherwise my mind may wonder completely.
Even with the distraction of games, email, web browsing, etc. that is present, I do find that I tend to learn more and be more productive having access to the internet during class. There are often times that a professor will refer to something and I can get more information by doing a google search or looking it up in wikipedia.

Cornell Student Responds (2, Interesting)

Alterscape (904055) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071586)

I'm a Cornell University student, and I use my Powerbook during many of my long lecture classes to browse, as well as take notes. I'm in the film program, and most of my classes tend to be 2-3 hours long, and occasionally my brain needs something to think about besides the relatively dry theoretical content that's discussed.

I've noticed that when class discussions get interesting, heated, or something other than monotone, and I have an interest in actively participating, I close my laptop and listen more attentively. But in most cases, I can handle both the text and the lecture "data stream" concurrently. If anything, giving my mind something to do other than passively receive content. I also find myself looking up sites related to what we're discussing, if its actually interesting. Strange as it seems, sometimes dividing my attention actually lets me focus on stuff I'm less interested in.

I realize that to a certain extent, I'm probably hurting myself by tuning out "less interesting" material. But, at the same time, before I had my laptop, I took notes in spiral notebooks and they'd often be punctuated by long stretches of doodles where the lecture became to dry to hold my attention by itself. I was a 3.5-ish student before I got my laptop, and I'm still a 3.5-ish student today.

Workflow (0, Offtopic)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071592)

Kegs are wireless - how can WiFi mess that up?

The article identifies the REAL problem (1)

Dekortage (697532) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071606)

From the article: In any event, even when multitaskers can't keep track of the professor, it probably doesn't matter much. In lectures at large universities, especially in the humanities and social sciences, class time is usually taken up by the broad outlines of the subject. The real learning occurs when we bear down and pore over the hundreds of pages assigned every week....

As someone who has been through graduate school, and taught there, and have a spouse and siblings doing the same, I'll say this: the major problem is that CLASS IS USUALLY A WASTE OF STUDENT'S TIME. Most professors/instructors blather on about stuff that is not terribly important, then assign a truckload of readings and exercises to complete outside the class. You could get this much more cheaply from do-it-yourself books... because many educations are becoming do-it-yourself anyway.

I make a point in my classes (multimedia programming, graphic design, color theory, etc.) of lecturing with interesting examples, enough to illustrate the subject matter for the week, but after that the kids can go -- even if I've used only half the class time or less. I stay in the classroom the entire allotted class time so that students are free to stay to ask questions or have studio time or whatever.

Legend of Zelda (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071607) Legend of Zelda

I didn't know you can play Legend of Zelda online. That's what I've been keeping the N64 around for. See what I've missed by not going to college lately.

OK OK, I get the argument... (1)

MikeSty (890569) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071610)

... that it isn't the WiFi, that students are just innately lazy. I agree with that too. But why do people need WiFi for LECTURE NOTES?

Other implications. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14071613)

This happens at high schools, as well. I knew many capable individuals at my laptop-based High School in a suburb of Dallas, Texas that failed classes merely because they had internet access whenever they pleased.

Hell, my best friend presented as his final exam project and got an 85 for it.

Slackers will always slack off (1)

Emperor Tiberius (673354) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071624)

At my university, the WiFi network is only in certain building. It's noticably absent from buildings with lecture halls. Let's be honest with ourselves though. People who fuck off, are always going to fuck off. The exclusion of a WiFi network -- which is rather useful to some -- isn't going to change this.

If WiFi was unavailable, we'd just see an annoying increase in the use of cell phones. I for one would rather hear the clicks of trackpads, than the jabbering of cellphone users.

Brain types (1)

Mateito (746185) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071626)

The kind of brain that can handle multiple channels of information is the type that earns As

The kind of brain that can handle multiple channels of information is called "female". This so it can remained focussed on finding fruit, roots and mushrooms, comminicating with the social group, watching for danger and keeping an eye on the baby hanging off the left nipple.

The other kind of brain is designed to focus intently on one task: To determine its changing position in space, deduce its future actions, then kill it and drag it home to the first type of brain who can then add "cook the zebra" to its list of tasks while the first type dedicates itself to back-slapping and farting.

The relevance to earning As or not depends on what the A is given for. Men tend to be better at finding a solution that solves a complicated problem. Women tend to be better at cavassing a range of solutions and presenting their relative merits with relatively bias. The best results are found when both types of brain work together. Of course, the link from genitals to brain-type is no less perfect that the link from genitals to sexual preference.

Placing blame (2, Insightful)

billyradcliffe (698854) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071632)

Don't blame the technology, blame the person (ab)using the technology. They know what they're supposed to be doing in class. They know that they're paying to be there. They're choosing to use the technology versus paying attention. A little self-discipline goes a long way.

Ignore the duration (1)

Hosiah (849792) | more than 8 years ago | (#14071639)

Pay attention to the content. Measure *which* sites students spend the most time browsing and compare that to their grade average, you'll see much more meaningful data.

For my part, the internet has always been first one big reference library, and everything else second. I can guarantee one thing - the "A" students sure as HELL aren't the ones visiting!

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