Time to Unplug Wireless Access?

Around the turn of the century (seems strange to say that), I recall the excitement I felt as my university completed a wireless network on campus and began requiring all students to have laptop computers with wireless access. I was an early user of the internet in the classroom and I thrilled at the opportunities that would open to my students with this new technology. I marveled at how students dutifully brought their laptops to class and seemed to take copious notes during class, many more notes than they seemed to take using just pencil and paper. Of course, it did seem to reduce class discussion or the number of questions that were raised.

But my technological naivety came crashing down the day I discovered that what looked like note taking was anything but. I recall how shattered I was when I discovered that several students had spent one class booking airline tickets for a vacation. It wasn’t long before I decided that if I were to regain control of my class, that I would have to ban laptops from my classroom, which I proceeded to do. Ten years ago, it was relatively easy to limit wireless access in the classroom, for all we had were laptop computers, smart phones were still waiting the wings.

Of course, I retired several years later and  forgot about the problem. But the problem seems not to have gone away, and in fact, has expanded with 3G smart phones and the proliferation of social networking. Now some schools are rethinking the idea of campus-wide wireless access and perhaps limiting student access to campus wireless networks.


(Tangled in an endless web of distractions. Boston Sunday Globe, April 24, 2011)

Is pulling the wireless plug a solution to the problem? Anyone have any thoughts or ideas on how to reduce the distractions offered by the web of distraction?

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Filed under Engaging students, Pedagogy

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