A growing number of schools are turning off wifi in classrooms or even banning laptops from classrooms in an attempt to persuade students to pay attention to whatever it is the professor is talking about.and then goes on to quote Ken Fisher at Ars Technica, who wrote:
While calls to make education "more interesting" are commonly offered as the solution to what ails the classroom full of web surfers, such demagoguery falls flat on its face the minute one remembers that students' interests are as broad if not broader than the collegiate curriculum itself. ...
The bigger question is, if Joe Baccalaureate got through Econ 101 with an "A" while spending his time manicuring his rotisserie-style fantasy baseball team in lecture, what was the lecture for to begin with?
I think this is actually a much more revolutionary idea than it might appear on the surface. As a student, I sat through too many lectures that were merely an outline of the chapter than we were supposed to have read. In grad school I even had a professor who read the book to us! Why should students pay attention if there is nothing new offered in a lecture?
There is a need to rethink education at all levels. I don't think we can really force laptops and wifi out of our classrooms. I don't even think we should. But we need to see if there isn't a way we can use the technology to our advantage.
And we need to think about what we do as instructors. I need to ask myself, "Did my students learn something today that they couldn't have gotten anywhere else?" The answer won't always be yes,I'm sure, but it should be at least some of the time!