Friday, July 22, 2011

A Summer Thirsty on Student Gear.

I was ranting in class this morning about how Facebook, Twitter, etc. had ruined the college experience for me. I was vaunting on the good ol' days, and my 19 year old stunned steer were staring at me as if I were a shiny, sweaty bauble in a tank of virtual meat behind glass.

I hate their clicking and fake note taking on their laptops and - now - iPads. I just want to enforce some kind of pencil and paper edict that I know my FORWARD-THINKING and SOUL-SUCKING college would never let me enforce. (I'm afraid they'd send me back to take the "Technology in Education" webinar again, the one that ran unwatched on my desktop computer one day while I was trying to pry open the new $70 million photocopier that works about 9% of the time.)

Then I read this thing in the Chronicle. Well, I won't post all of it, because that would be, well, something. But the link is below. (There's a funny line in the real article, something about students earning summer money; but you can decide for yourself.)

Chinese Professor Is Criticized for iPad Requirement

July 21, 2011, 12:56 pm
A Chinese professor has been criticized for requiring that his students purchase iPads and recommending that they take on extra summer jobs to finance the tablet if they cannot afford one, according to a report in Shanghai Daily. Henry Liang, who teaches finance in English at Shanghai Maritime University, notified students on his personal blog last week that all course materials, including tests and PowerPoint presentations, would be in iPad format only.

Q: What is your bottom line on student gear? What "equipment" are your students allowed to have, and what stuff can they NOT use in your class, in your exams, etc.


  1. That's a payoff scam: the local Apple vendor (Wang's Noodles and Computers, Ltd.) probably paid Prof. Liang so many thousand yuan to do this, he accepted, and Apple is a metric f-ckton richer. Prof. Liang probably also has places where the students can be employed for the iPad money (Chang's Rice and Refrigerators, Wu Fat's House of Intersting Massage, Hsang Yu's Dumplings and This is Definitely Not a Triad Front sound pretty promising.)

  2. I actually think there's some argument for colleges (not individual professors) requiring all students to have laptops, if that then allows them to make the money to purchase the laptop part of a financial aid package. Since very few students *don't* have them, it would level the playing field. It might also discourage students from trying to access the LMS (and email) solely on their phones, which just doesn't work (but leads to complaints about overly-long -- i.e. capable of filling more than one tiny screen -- emails and assignment prompts).

    But individual proffies shouldn't be able to do this, unless they're teaching a very specialized course. On the other hand, as textbook/textbook package prices continue to go up, and prices for various kinds of tech gadgets continue to fall, it may be harder to draw a line between the two.

  3. Oh, yes, to actually answer the question: I expect students to turn off, or at least silence, their cellphones during class, and not to answer them, but that's about it. I teach mostly in computer classrooms, so they've got a screen available anyway (and some prefer to use their laptops instead, which is fine by me).

  4. My students are not allowed to use any electronic devices in class at all. No laptops, no cell phones, no ipods, no nothing. Any use of electronics whatsoever is grounds for counting the student absent.

  5. Oh I've fought this at different times, but now it's simple. If it's quiet, you can use it. If it beeps, squonks or clicks, shut it off and don't bring it back.

  6. I allow laptops in the back row only, so whatever's on the screen doesn't distract other students. Cell phones must be turned off or on vibrate and not answered. The cursed thing is iPhone web surfing and texting. Last year, I was so flabbergasted by two students surfing with and giggling over an iPhone that I didn't have the presence of mind to ask them to put it away or leave. Which I should have.

  7. A very specific request might be reasonable in a very specialized class. This one definitely sounds draconian. Either the guy's on a little power trip or he's getting kickback as Strelnikov suggests.

    What probably chapped student asses the most though, was the "If you can't earn $X then you don't deserve to be my student" comment. I don't think even the most vitriolic CM smackdowns have gone that far.

  8. Why the bloody blue blazes do they have every new gadget under the Sun, and yet whenever you require them to use any of that technology as part of a class, they instantly turn into all-thumbs Luddites?

    Probably for the same reason they complain how college is not like the real world, but the moment you make it like the real world by holding them responsible for their actions and for their education, they wail like little children.

  9. I want to require my flakes to have a Linux only laptop. No Windows partition, no Wine, no Apple. Free software, minimal cost, and they all could install Sage and learn how to use it.

  10. I don't allow the use of any electronic devices in my class, with the only exception being the use of laptop - and that is only allowed while I am lecturing, with the caveat that if I find anyone on facebook, he/she will be marked absent. My policy is lenient compared to some of my colleagues' policies; one woman I know bans laptops for everyone in the class for the entire term if she catches anyone on facebook.

  11. No electronic devices, period. I used to allow laptops, but I had a student who apparently kept a window open with porn playing, and when he got bored he would switch over to that. When several other students complained, he refused to stop (no shame to his game, as the kids say). I finally got him to sit in the back row so that others were no longer forced to share his addiction. Thus my "draconian" policy.

    And to give you an idea of the kinds of ruling class kids I teach, the very next semester after the porn-boy incident, I had a student (a nice enough kid really) who maintained that he had a disability that prevented him from taking notes by hand. Now in retrospect I could have let him sit in the back row with his laptop but it was my first semester of banning the things, so I refused to bend (he couldn't produce a disability services document attesting to the problem, just a very vague doctor's note). However, after some negotiation, I agreed to let him record the lectures, which he then gave to his father's secretary for transcription. You could have knocked me over with a feather when he told me that was what he was doing with the recordings. At any rate, he wanted to take another class with me, but apparently his father told him that he wasn't going to pay his secretary another semester's worth of overtime for transcribing my lectures.

    Like I said, a nice enough kid, but I never did manage to get my head around that whole thing.

    Anyway, I don't teach another lecture course until next Spring, but I'm going to go with "laptops in the back row only" this time and see how it works out.

  12. Requiring the use of a specific proprietary operating system is completely inappropriate.

    At my Univ, all students are expected to have laptops. It makes things possible like posting activities to websites and sending small groups to breakout rooms. It was essential for the statistics class I taught. However, we don't require any specific type of latop.

    Anything posted or required should be in an open, docunented cross-platform format (such as PDF) so that anybody with a modern computer can access it.


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