… comes out in favor of a university-wide laptop in the classroom ban. If you’ve been reading this blog for any time at all, you know that UD has confidently awaited such a day, and that she trusts something similar will happen at other self-respecting campuses (Def. of self-respecting campuses: Places whose football stadium isn’t named after a prison). That is, UD has anticipated that the real energy in favor of serious bans will come not from professors, many of whom do ban them, but from students.

This is for obvious I’m all right, Jack, pull up the ladder reasons: What careth I, Professor X, if Professor Y’s students have a shitty classroom experience? I’ve worked out something good for my group.

But – as UD has told you repeatedly – this is a treacherously short-sighted POV. As the Duke editorial writers ask:

Why convene class if students are half-present, constantly disturbed by text messages, games and Facebook? … What is the point of holding class if people are not paying attention? This is not just about respect; it is also about the necessity of a physical college campus. The more time we spend on computers, the less important the on-campus college experience — which universities tout as a major benefit of an elite education — becomes.

If it helps you to think about this in terms of sports: Note current plummeting attendance at many university and professional stadiums. Why, why, why? Well, lots of traditional reasons (obscene drunks, long runs of losing games, outrageous ticket prices, passels of bad boys on the teams) PLUS a new one: The addition to many stadiums of vast Adzillatrons — screens that show you the game as it’s happening, and add constant massive shrieking advertisements. Fun! You’ve spent hundreds of dollars to be treated to a computer-generated as-it’s-happening rendition of the game while being held captive to wall to wall commercials. Where do I sign up for my $2,000 season tickets?… But it’s so much less fun with every game, ’cause I notice all the other people who used to sit with me and make it exciting to cheer are gone. They’re watching on their big screen in the respectable privacy of their own home…

And see it’s the same thing at universities. Why go there? It’s nicer to lie in bed and stare at your very own screen. And you get to that place, mentally, as a result of staring at screens in classrooms, just the way people get themselves home from the football game by staring at screens in the stadium.

Really dum-dum states, like Nevada, our very dumbest state, are planning more and bigger Adzillatrons at stadiums. A proposed $800 million new facility for UNLV features an Adzillatron that spans the entire stadium. Imagine sitting in your seat and being forced to watch the world’s biggest moving image of a three-tier McDonald’s burger oozing white sauce! Slurp!

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7 Responses to “It’s a happy day when the editorial staff of the Duke University newspaper…”

  1. tony grafton Says:

    Thanks for the post and link. You’ve made me very happy.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    You’re welcome, Tony.

  3. universityoflies Says:

    Good on the editorial board.

    I’ve banned laptops in my classroom, but I teach in a barely accredited last stop sham of a college.

    I’m horrified to see that this is an issue at a place like Duke.

    I guess I had some illusion that there were still places where the majority of the students valued the physical classroom experience.

  4. Joe Fruscione Says:

    The comments are priceless. Some took issue for the ban in computer science classes (very understandable, I think), but most offered typical responses: ‘easier’ to type notes than write them; professors should be less boring so students won’t Facebook or shop in class; they should be able to make their own choices, etc. etc. etc.

    One even commented while in the middle of a class. A little sad and a little ironic, it seems to me.

  5. Alan Allport Says:

    I still think there is space for a compromise position here.

    For myself, I don’t allow laptops in seminar-style classes where discussion is expected. But I don’t particularly mind them if I’m lecturing – and I defend the concept of lecturing in certain circumstances. Sometimes the most efficient way to explain an important concept is simply to explain it in old-fashioned chalk ‘n’ talk style; and in those circumstances it doesn’t bother me if students choose to make their notes electronically. I am not so naive as to think that they’re never distracted by the lure of the screen. But I try to structure the class in such a way as to create consequences for distraction.

  6. charlie Says:

    My rage knows no bounds!!!! NV the dumbest state, how dare you? We here in OR have done our best, beyond what is capable, of being the dumb as monkeys looking at fire stupid that you should be touting on this here blog. Take it back, I tells ya….

  7. Margaret Soltan Says:

    charlie: Sorry. No way. Oregon will never get there. It’s way back in the line behind NV, Hawaii, Alaska, and Texas.

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