Like most colleges and universities, PSU has spent the last several years expanding wireless access to the network across our campus. Except for the residence halls, where population density precludes good wireless service, we've installed wireless in most public and academic buildings. You want to connect, we're usually there for you.
Faculty are raising concerns, however, about the distraction of wireless in the classroom. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Distractions in the Wireless Classroom, cited the example of one observerâ€¦
"[we] were intrigued by the tapping of the laptop keys as students appeared to be taking copious notes. As we looked over their shoulders from our back-row seats, we found instead they were on Facebook, Dave Matthews Band Web sites, instant-messaging friends, and e-mailing fellow classmates." <http://chronicle.com/weekly/v53/i21/21c00101.htm>
While laptops make for better note-taking and in-class exercises, their connection to the vast media, communication and information of the internet poses somewhat of a challenge to an instructor who is trying to get your focus on a specific topic. After all, that is why you're paying tuition.
Frankly, laptops are not the biggest problem. It's cell phones that are changing the nature of the classroom. Imagine the distraction to an instructor when the cell phones go off or vibrations send reverberations through the class. Think of what it does to your focus, then multiply it for the classroom.
I'm not sure there is a simple answer here. For some instructors, those who are more facilitators than information disseminators, student connectivity to the internet poses a wealth of opportunities for in-class discussion, research and analysis. But pity the lecturer, the old-style of class delivery where they are the vessel and you are the receptacle. That tends to lend itself to surfing. Regardless, if you don't respect some basic guidelines of class manners, more and more you'll see syllabus components that prohibit ANY laptops in the classroom. That would be a shame.
I write with a certain sense of authority on the matter. I have my smartphone with me all day. I get text messages from colleagues who want my attention right away. I am always on-call. If someone raises an issue, I quickly get on the internet and get more information. And, if I'm bored and less-than-engaged in a meeting, I check my email. I admit, I'm addicted to my connectivity.
I've found, however, that this type of behavior is perceived as rude and insensitive to those around me. I don't like it when others do it in my meetings.
I also dislike what this constant connectivity is doing to our culture in general. Spend time in an airport, look around at the mall. Everywhere people congregate, they are yakking it up on cell phones, oblivious to those around them. We are fast losing our sensibilities and courtesies in public areas.
There was a time when public phones were in booths. They were designed to help you talk in privacy. Maybe we should create booths for cell phone users.
Regardless, and more to my original point, turn off the signal and stash your phone while you're in class. Use your laptop wisely. It's your money, it's your education. Be courteous.
Penny for your thoughts...