Slashdot Discusses Wi-Fi in the Classroom

Slashdot is discussing wi-fi access in the college classroom in an article ominously titled…Is Wi-Fi Ruining College?

Here’s an interesting solution that is likely to have some traction with law faculty…

"…I’m a student at Harvard Business School, where they have a fairlyinteresting solution for handling this problem. While every campusbuilding has wireless access, all the access points in the classroombuildings require a web based log-in that checks your student ID versusyour class schedule. If you’re scheduled to be in class at that moment,you are denied wireless access to the internet (in any classroombuilding)…"

We’ve heard all the discussion on both sides of this…

  • If students are paying, that’s their problem,
  • If faculty are boring, students will not pay attention anyway,
  • Students could doodle or do crossword puzzles,
  • Faculty should make the classroom more intereactive and interesting,
  • The web is a seductive, shiny thing and no one could help themselves checking their email,
  • There are valid educational uses for accessing the web inside the classroom like…
    • Students looking up things that the instructor is talking about to better understand the material,
    • Studenst IMing each other with the answers when one is called upon,
    • Faculty integrating websites, research, etc into the classroom time,
  • Students use their PCs to take notes, so you can’t refuse them access to their PCs,
  • Eventually, it will be impossible to block network access via cell phones, PDAs, mesh networks, wi-fi max, wi-fi muni, etc.

Here’s a thought experiment. If a student did not attend any classes and still can get a ‘A’ in the course, does that negate the need for the classroom time?

Let me pose this thought experiment more generally (I did this at the CODEC workshop last April). If students are willing to pay the full tuition and they prove that they can pass the bar exam, would you ‘sell’ them their degree?

In case it is not obvious, I am asking whether law schools are selling education or a credential and whether students are buying an education or a credential.

I think the answer is both, but I know that schools place a lot of weight on student bar passage rates and quite a few schools are developing their own non-credit bar review courses to bring these numbers up. Is this just a natural manifestation of the disconnect between legal education and bar exam passage?

11/20/2006 – Update – Tipping Education’s Sacred Cow: Reconsidering the Lecture

This blogpost considers whether lectures can be replaced by "coursecasts" where the student can pause and take notes, etc.

Why not do it both ways? Faculty can continue to deliver the live lectures and archive the video and audio for students to re-visit later. I don’t think that the synchronous, live class meeting will go away, but it could be improved.

Coursecasts/podcasts/CALI lessons could cover doctrine and the live class could be interactive, socratic and discussion-oriented. Bligh says that lectures have limited capacity to deliver information and almost no ability to change attitudes or opinions. It is discussion with others that engages the student mind. Expect a future article on deconstructing the lecture.

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