From Margaret Soltan comes a Globe and Mail article about professors who are banning laptops in the seminar hall. Once or twice, I've sat in the back of World Civ and looked around at the students on their laptops. As far as I could tell, a single lonely soul was taking notes on his laptop; others were checking email, reading blogs, downloading music- the kid next to me was watching Star Wars! So, I don't really see why professors allow laptops in the classroom.
I know, here I go bashing the Internet again. But I think it's realistic to say that the Internet is good for a number of things, and still acknowledge that it doesn't really add much to the classroom. And I think my position on the matter has evolved a bit- after all, I'm not arguing for the Amish lifestyle any more. Besides, the reason I get so cranky about the Net in the first place is that so many of its paladins go so far out in the other direction. One of the experts interviewed, who not surprisingly sells software to help Profs use the Internet in class, is quoted- Instead of banning laptops, professors should adapt because “banning is not going to work with this generation because that is how they learn,” she said.
This encapsulates two arguments that irritate me:
1. The argument that ''this generation'' has a unique and special relationship with the Internet that the rest of us cannot really understand. It's beautiful really. Come with me now, into the future...
2. The argument that, when you're surfing the Net, you're not really surfing the net- you're learning, making lifelong friends, engaging with the political process, painting your house, and doing a bunch of other things that maybe you are really doing, but probably not.
Look, there's probably nothing wrong with surfing the net on a regular basis. But there's something to be said for not letting that invade the other parts of your life. The article talks about students who freak out upon being told that they can't use their laptops for an hour and a half twice a week. There's talk about their ''lifelines'', and their ''right to bring laptops to class'', and how they were ''even a little panicked'' about turning off the computer, and you start thinking maybe it's not such a bad thing that Mean Professor Anti-Laptop is trying to make them engage with the world around them for an hour and a half.