Wireless in the Classroom

Wireless in the Classroom

My campus is planning the construction of a building dedicated to instruction; state of the art classroom technology, lots of computers, a space where a large class can take a monitored online test. There is, I’m told, a debate about whether or not to put wireless access into the building. Many instructors dislike the idea of students being online while they teach; “being online” means “not paying attention”, after all. The internet is fun and games, and learning is meant to be work.

No, that’s harsh, isn’t it.

Being online means chatting with your friends and goofing off. You shouldn’t be chatting with your friends and goofing off while you’re sitting in a lecture. It’s not respectful.

Except: what about people like me, who get so tied up in knots about the subject at hand that I need to spill my ideas out to SOMEone, SOMEwhere, and often use IM to channel my over-enthusiasm? (I think Jason took all my library school classes with me, virtually, through my constant stream of IMs.) What if that “chatting with friends” prevents someone like me from interrupting and turning your lecture into a one-on-one discussion? Or, what if the “chatting with friends” helps a student refine her critique? Or keeps her engaged, because otherwise her mind wanders and if reporting what she’s hearing about in the classroom to a trusted and interested friend helps her retain the knowledge better?

What if that trip to wikipedia, or google, helps clarify something? What if that internet activity is related to the process of learning the material?

Why does the instructor get to make the decisions about how students are going to learn?

Why are we more interested in optics than in allowing students to be adults and choose their own learning methods?

Why don’t we trust students?

Why do we not make use of the amazing resources available online while we’re teaching? Why not allow students to use virtual reference desks worldwide to get questions answered for the class, or check UN stats, or otherwise contribute meaningfully to the lecture? Why not harness the fact that students like to do something other than sit still in a room for three hours and ask students to go forage for elements that can enrich everyone’s learning experience? Why not be more interactive? Why not share not just expertise but a true love of seeking out information and turning it into knowledge? Why not just expect the learning part to happen after class, but in class as well?

Why not allow students to take notes collaboratively, on a wiki, or with Google notebook, or other, multi-cursor collaborative software?

Why not allow students to twitter their questions and ideas (you can easily monitor that)?

Why not give students a chance to react?

I’d like to throw together a video about why wifi in the classroom is a good thing. If you’ve got an opinion, go below and record me a little video describing your ideas, experience, anything. It doesn’t need to be long. I’ll mash them together into a video and upload them to YouTube. Please help!

4 thoughts on “Wireless in the Classroom

  1. I love wifi {seesmic_video:{“url_thumbnail”:{“value”:”http://t.seesmic.com/thumbnail/Ou0iO9mzDb_th1.jpg”}”title”:{“value”:”I love wifi “}”videoUri”:{“value”:”http://www.seesmic.com/video/hKyaMJyvWX”}}}

  2. think of tomorrow {seesmic_video:{“url_thumbnail”:{“value”:”http://t.seesmic.com/thumbnail/e4AC7FIJCM_th1.jpg”}”title”:{“value”:”think of tomorrow “}”videoUri”:{“value”:”http://www.seesmic.com/video/8CxCSoY953″}}}

  3. I think it is perfectly fine to have non-wifi sections of campus, certain buildings etc. It is no real issue at all, students can just use antennae extenders or their mobile devices to do what they want. The internet and specifically smart users of the internet, tend to route around the barriers that professors and other people put in front of them. I suspect that if you build a wifi-less building these days, it will probably be 3 months after construction that the retrofit is either in place for twice the cost.

  4. Almost every prof I know is against wifi or computers in the classroom. I usually teach in a lab so I can do practical exercises anytime it fits into the class. I also don’t care if students answer their email or IM their friends as long as they don’t disturb other students in the class. Sometimes students contribute interesting articles and videos they’ve located by searching the web during a class.

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