Since my J.O.B. involves working in academic environments, I’m naturally attuned to anything going on in that arena. Techdirt reported today on a new Slashdot article about how professors want to pull the internet plug in classrooms.
This is not new news, at least in my academic world. Some professors, for a long time, have lamented the addition of wireless connections in the classroom that allow students to surf while they are in class. And in computerized classrooms, where a computer sits on every desk, it is an ongoing issue with many instructors.
Of course, there are some instructor-controlled solutions out there for computerized classrooms. There are several products from Altiris to help an instructor control access in the classroom. We use a program from Netsupport that allows an instructor to give or take away internet access on student PC’s, as well as sharing slide presentations, websites, etc. It also includes a function to turn on or off the equipment, which is a pretty impressive tool to watch in action. Then there’s an even more mundane solution: classroom furniture that raises and lowers computer monitors/keyboards at the instructor’s discretion.
All of these are tools that work, and are being used, in classrooms all over the country. But I have to wonder, as Techdirt does, why the underlying problem is not being addressed and solved. The underlying problem is not access to the internet. The underlying problem lies in the instructional methodologies professors use, and how those methodologies aren’t capturing the attention of their audiences.
I don’t know about anyone else, but in school, when my professors were boring, I amused myself by doodling, writing letters, or editing one of my novels. I took random notes, tried to look like I was paying attention, and managed to get through most of these “boring” classes with A’s and B’s anyway. If there’d been internet, I might have been using that tool to keep me entertained, as well.
I think instructors who worry that freely-offered internet access in the classroom will disrupt their instruction should perhaps change their instructional methodology. And let us not forget that the student is ultimately responsible for how they learn or not learn what is being taught in the classroom, as well. These are adults, after all, and they are free to make their choices, whatever they are.
The Internet, wireless access, computers in the classroom, etc., are just tools. How students use them in the classroom is up to them, and they will ultimately pay the consequences for the choices they make. Don’t blame the technology. The Internet didn’t kill the class; the complacency of the Professors and apathy of the students did.