Recently, I have noticed more and more professors are using classrooms equipped with computer workstations, or as I like to call them, the best distraction since I realized in sixth grade that girls weren’t all that bad.
Seriously, who thought it would be a good idea to give us Internet access while an instructor was trying to teach us something? It’s like if NYU had accepted the Olsen twins and had not expected an increase in creepy old guys wandering around campus.
I imagine the idea to put computers in classrooms went something like this:
Administrator No. 1: Would it not be a superb idea to give students access to the World Wide Web during class?
Administrator No. 2: Indeed! Why, they would be able to supplement their lessons in myriad ways!
Two years and millions of tuition dollars later:
Student No. 1: Dude, I can send you instant messages from my econ class!
Student No. 2: I know. I’ve been watching the dogs playing poker tournament online for the past two weeks during IH.
Now, one might argue that most students would be responsible with the technology they are given to learn. One might also argue that all of the freshmen only used legal music downloads to fill their hard drives within 40 minutes of arriving on campus.
Serious investigative reporter that I am, I decided to look into how responsible students really are. My classroom observations were encouraging. And by encouraging, I mean I spent most of the time playing Internet backgammon with an 87-year-old monk who lives in Singapore.
In between turns, I noticed a trend. The professor says to go to a Web site about ancient burial rites. The students check their e-mail.
The professor then points everyone to “an interesting discussion of the pros and cons of cannibalism.” The students check their e-mail.
The professor, lost in the rapture of using technology to cure ignorance, asks the class to find an article about mongoose reproduction. The students’ ears prick up at the word reproduction. Momentarily distracted, they go to ESPN.com to look at baseball scores, and then check their e-mail.
Of course, all of this e-mail checking is understandable. After all, many of us have urgent business opportunities from Nigerian politicians to consider.
Like any tool, the Internet is only as useful as its users make it. And giving college kids a high-speed connection in class is like giving an electric kaleidoscope to a chimpanzee with ADD. Let’s just say Bubbles won’t be showing off his monkey sign-language skills again any time soon.
In some classes, like Web design, it makes sense to have access to the Internet. I mean, we are doing design on the Web; it just makes sense.
Plus, the class is three hours long, so we really need to be able to check our e-mail.
Brian White can be reached at email@example.com.