WOTTA Shocker.

Survey: Nearly Half of Students Distracted by Technology

Tragic Wastage of Paper in Canada

Some students at one of the University of Toronto campuses don’t want a laptop ban, and they are uncomfortably aware it’s the wave of the future. In arguing for the laptop’s necessity, they cite the ‘wastage of paper’ that will ensue if students write in their notebooks.


A study published in the journal Educational Psychology found that students who had cellphones or laptops present while a lesson was being taught scored five percent, or half a letter grade, lower on exams than students who didn’t use electronics… The study also found that students in the device-permitting classroom who were not using devices also scored lower. The researchers attributed this to distraction from the devices around them.

“[A] lot of professors … don’t have any clear laptop policies.”

Once again, students must instruct professors on the gross negligence of failing to restrict/outlaw laptop use in their classes. This Northwestern University student nicely rehearses the by-now almost universally accepted arguments against laptop use in the classroom; he goes on to note that plenty of professors still don’t give a shit.

‘There are more than 200 students in the class ENGG 401 – Law and Professionalism. More than half of the enrolled students don’t attend the lectures; they just show up for the exams. The professors post their lecture notes online for the students.’

Wotta shocker when these high-quality courses generate systemic cheating! Massive numbers of foreign students, few of whom exist in the physical universe, a professor who doesn’t bother showing up for exams…

And that’s ain’t all, folks. Turns out cheating is everywhere in the University of Regina’s engineering program – faculty as well as students – and reading about all the efforts to break into professors’ offices to get the exams, to hack the system and change grades, to bribe TAs to get, er, special assistance… And then there are the professors stealing their students’ work … It’s quite something.

But the school is on it! For instance, it has sent out a message to all students asking them not to cheat. Plus any day now it intends to deploy shock troops to show up on exam days and take a serious look around.


UD thanks Jack.

Most Online Courses Suck.

Not all of them do, but most of them do. (Read this blog’s Click-Thru U and/or Technolust categories.) They’re positively criminal for slower learners — and in public high schools, slower learners are exactly the people the system shunts into online “credit recovery” courses, unsupervised, cheating-friendly, online make-up classes. If you flunk out of a person-to-person class, you can still get the credits you need to graduate by pretending you took the same material online. It’s a solution sweeping the nation, a scandal in every state, but UD‘s own Washington DC has had truly remarkable results with the technology: Every year, all but two public schools illegitimately graduate gobs of students.


The romance with tacky online education continues to power forward in this country, because there’s plenty of money in it for the vendor, and because it’s absolute bliss for give-a-shit cynics. Despite all the scandals, expect it to grow.

Take heed of one thing DC schools are doing right away in response to the scandal: They’re keeping the program but calling it something other than “credit recovery.”


But they’ll never beat the pros.




UD has amused herself over the years, compiling various stupid maneuvers professors perform to avoid banning laptops in their classrooms.

There was York University’s Henry Kim:

Kim is fully aware that his students aren’t listening to him because they’re watching shit on their laptops. Instead of banning laptops, however, Kim has taken a page out of Erich Honecker’s East Germany and turned his students into a spy network. If a student sees another student using her laptop for non-class purposes (Kim has already had his students swear some ridiculous pledge, etc.), she is to report that to Kim.

“It’s not meant to be punitive — it’s almost like a thought experiment, and the whole point is to create a new social norm in my class.”

Comrade Honecker speaks! Creating new social norms by encouraging students to turn in other students – that’s the solution to the laptop problem!

And now there’s some person at the University of Pennsylvania:

I had a professor last year who had the TAs sit in the back of the lecture hall, where they could see the screens of the students using their laptops. If they saw someone goofing off or not simply taking notes, they would ring a bell, and everyone would have to close their laptops for several minutes before they could reopen them to continue taking notes. This didn’t help anyone focus; rather, it stirred up anger in the students, that they were being treated like animals who needed to respond to the ring of a bell.

Same basic Honecker approach – designate a person or persons who tell on the naughty laptop user – but I love the addition of a bell… Like Captain von Trapp’s dog whistle… Another thought experiment generating new social norms…

‘Using Laptops in Class Harms Academic Performance, Study Warns’

What a shocker!

This is around the twentieth study to yield results like these.


The real question now is: Why will most professors – assuming they bother to find out these results – not get rid of laptops?

And the answer is easy: Most of them are afraid to. No telling how students will respond.

And the rest of the professors? Laptops make their teaching lives ever so much easier. Life is beautiful when no one’s listening. Many such teachers compound the loveliness by using PowerPoint throughout the class, thus creating what UD calls The Morgue Classroom. They just need to stand there reading words out loud while students watch football games. A nice quiet workable twice weekly experience.

UD takes no position on his suitability for the court. But THIS she likes.

What also stood out was [Neil Gorsuch’s] ban of laptops in the classroom. He forbade students in his [University of Colorado] legal ethics class from using computers — an unusual move within law schools, where laptops are ubiquitous.

The computer exile was intended to eliminate distractions, boost engagement, and prompt students to listen carefully to each other, according to Jordan Henry, a second-year Colorado law student who took Gorsuch’s course last semester. And it was so effective that Henry voluntarily stopped using her laptop in several other classes.

“When you close the computers and get rid of distractions in class, you respond to each other and bring up counterpoints,” she said. “It makes for a true discussion and a much more engaged class — and frankly a more interesting class.”

“Discussion is absolutely the key,” [University of Georgia Journalism Professor John] Soloski said. “Without the computers, there’s not this physical barrier between the professor and the students …”

Allowing laptops, as UD often says, is academic malpractice.

Professors who continue to allow laptop use fall into the following categories.

1. I could give a shit. It’s easier for me to do virtually nothing up there if students are sedated with their fun screens. To make matters perfect, I use old text-heavy PowerPoints and drone and dribble over them. Eventually my teaching will resemble my deep calm when sleeping off benders, and my classroom will be a morgue.

2. I hate and fear humanity, especially students. I look forward to the day when all of them will be hidden from me behind their screens.

That’s about it.

“In the end, though, I decided that the students who were not multi-tasking had a right not to be distracted by others who were. And, perhaps it’s okay for me to be paternalistic — I’m a teacher, after all.”

If you follow University Diaries, you know that her response to the recent spate of banning confessionals is why did it take you so long. But anyway.

“Last week, at the Aspen Ideas festival, there came an interesting little moment between Kentaro Toyama, a computer scientist, and Jim Steyer, a lawyer and entrepreneur. Both declared that they’d banned laptops and other electronic devices in their lecture halls.”

“[F]ar more of [their] colleagues are banning laptops than they did five years ago…”

Well that’s great. That’s just great. Those of us who’ve been screaming for the last ten years about the classroom laptop scam are thrilled. But why isn’t anyone expressing any remorse about a decade of students lost to the fad? Why isn’t anyone saying anything about the many lazy cynical professors who continue to promote laptop use in their classrooms?

No laptops. Another cutting edge idea from the Aspen Ideas festival.

Once again, a university student schools professors on their classroom responsibilities.

Because we are all drawn into the world of the Internet, someone needs to step in and break that distraction. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of Saint Joseph’s University and its faculty. Many of my professors do not allow laptops and make that clear in the syllabus, but many others allow students free rein. These professors that allow laptops, however, often scold people for being on their cellphones. Why? Because they’re distracting. Then why not ban the laptop, a device that not only distracts the user, but also those around them?

More and more, American university students are forced to point out the obvious to their professors. Stop doing this.

It’s pretty unseemly – students having to tell their professors how to be responsible.

And responsible professors have, for the most part, stopped it.

What’s mainly left are the proprietors of what UD calls the morgue classroom, professors who keen over a PowerPoint while their students nod off to Netflix.

Everybody all tucked in and ready for bed.

Emus and Yaks and Bears, Oh My!

As ever, the blessings of the wired classroom.

Bringing it into the classroom is not very smart. Get rid of laptops in the classroom.

Next Page »

Latest UD posts at IHE