In March 2008, the Dean Saul Levmore at the University of Chicago Law School announced internet access would be blocked in campus classrooms. According to Inside Higher Ed, Levmore wrote the following in an email to students:
"You know better than I that for many students class has come to consist of some listening but also plenty of e-mailing, shopping, news browsing, and gossip-site visiting. Many students say that the visual images on classmates' screens are diverting, and they too eventually go off track and check e-mail, sometimes to return to the class discussion and sometimes barely so. Our faculty (and I, as well as many of your classmates with whom I have spoken) believe strongly that we need to do everything we can to make Chicago's classroom experiences all they can be.�?
I certainly understand the impulse to ban internet access in the classroom; I have observed classes with students surfing all manner of sites. It is distracting to the students nearby. It limits the depth of discussions you can have in class if students are distracted. Even in a large lecture class, I assume it is also frustrating to the professor. Most of us can tell when our audience is not listening.
However, I do not think the proposed solution will work. Students need to learn when it is appropriate to check their email, shop online, and read gossip sites. They will need to develop this discernment at some point in their lives. There won't always be a dean who will decide for them when to block internet access.
Besides, the article noted that WiMAX will soon provide high-speed wireless internet access all over Chicago, likely including the University of Chicago Law School in the service area.
Thoughts? Leave a comment below.