The Record ought to write an article about laptop use in large classes. I bet that they would find something like this:

Those students who, from the front of the classroom, look all industrious on their laptops? Were playing games on Facebook, checking their friends’ online photo albums, posting messages on what looked to be gaming discussion boards, checking TV listings (and possibly setting their DVRs remotely), buying shoes, scoping out concert tickets, watching a kung fu movie (with the sound muted), and checking in on online discussions for other classes. The one student who was using her laptop during lecture to complete peer reviews of classmates’ papers (for another class) seemed like the model of diligence.

Indeed. Is the same true at Williams? If so, the solution is obvious:

So a significant fraction of your students choose to spend a significant fraction of their time in your lectures engaged with something other than listening to that lecture, and you view that as a failing on the students part? Really?

Here’s an exercise that may be revealing: Have somebody, maybe a student or an automated system, whatever, make a transcript of everything you said during a two or three hour lecture, verbatim. Then read it, front to back. It won’t take you three hours. It will take you fifteen or twenty minutes. That should tell you what the real information density of your lectures is like to people who used to have the option of reading other books, making doodles or just struggling to stay awake, but who now have the option of wifi.

Standing in front of people talking to them might be the slowest, least convenient, most error-prone way of conveying information available in the modern world. The solution to this problem, assuming you’re even willing to admit it’s a problem, isn’t to get rid of laptops or distractions. It’s to get rid of the unbelievably inefficient tedium that are low-bandwidth, one-person-talking lectures.

Exactly correct. No More Lectures!

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