Saturday, November 3, 2012

Axe + grinding stone > glorious update

I didn't know this was coming down the pike only a couple of days after my post on digital distraction. The Fates smile on us.

"York University prof enlists student snitches to battle digital distraction"

"When professor Henry Kim noticed a student this week paying more attention to his laptop than the class discussion, he asked another student to check out the suspect’s screen.



"The business professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business quietly asked the tweeter to leave for the rest of the 90-minute class for breaking the pledge his students must take not to use laptops for anything but class work."



  1. I've been playing with the idea of requiring my students to come see me privately and prove they should be allowed to use a laptop -- ie, they have a learning reason or a broken hand or something and need a computer -- and those people will get a little badge to hang on their computer in class. Anyone else with a computer and no badge cannot use it in class.

    But each term I forget until it's too late. Maybe Spring will be The Year.

  2. AM, I've asked students to do this every year and only one student with severe dysgraphia had her own 'typing pad thingie that wasn't a laptop but looked like one' and actually had a legitimate need for it. The others all claimed they needed their laptops to take notes. And when I have allowed that, within 2-3 days, I've had to ask students not to bring laptops to class again. They can't help themselves. They truly can't.

    1. And by "this," I mean having students come see me to get specific permission to use a laptop in class, not snitch on their classmates.

  3. Why not include a line in your syllabus? "No laptop computers or cell phones are allowed in class. Period." It works for me, and I've never had a complaint.

    Of course, students with an official request for accommodation--from whatever your version of the office for Disabled Student Services--is called are excepted.

  4. Great pledge, Professor Kim! I just may plagiarize it!

    There are arguments for allowing laptops in class. Laptop users may have a smaller carbon footprint because (at least in my classes) they also often buy an online version of the textbook and thus are saving both trees and weight in their cars. Also, some of my best students have been dedicated laptop note-takers, and most of my worst students don't take notes in any format. Finally, some of my international students rely on translation software for occasional words (such as, recently, "flourish"). So my policy is somewhat like Prof. Kim's.

    There's a line in my syllabus that no cell phones are allowed in class, period, and that laptops and tablets are allowed only for class work. The first time I see another use is the last time the student will use the computer in class. Usually I bust students in the first couple of weeks, and then don't have to for the rest of the semester.

    (The busting is quiet but conspicuous because suddenly the student shuts the laptop. At least the students nearby notice.)

    It helps that my classes and classroom are small enough that I can circulate around the room while lecturing, using a remote clicker for the PowerPoint or Prezi. I also make them write in class a lot, and read their answers over their shoulders. If they have a browser or another document open, I ask to see it.


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