Monday, March 21, 2005

Internet access

I can’t imagine a good reason that law school administrators would go out of their way to offer free Internet access in law school classrooms. A few people might have legitimate reasons for using the Internet while in class – receiving an emergency email, looking up a case or law review article – but those very rare legitimate uses are surely swamped by the number of students who will simply end up reading the news, playing online games, chatting with friends, looking up the stock market, reading blogs, or looking at any of the millions of non-law-school-related websites. A law school might as well pay for a poker game and a clown act to take place in the back of a classroom, as well as handing out free newspapers for students to read during class.

UPDATE: Will Baude has a fairly good response here, pointing out some other legitimate uses of the Internet during class. That said, I'm skeptical that "fact-checking" occurs all that often, and I don't know how it could be said in the abstract that any extra "research" done on the spot is likely to be useful. I'm also skeptical of this: "the costs of distraction and goofing off are mostly internal." That depends; a student who is looking at a flashy website (of any kind) might easily distract 5 or 10 students behind him. Baude is correct that "students can distract themself just fine without the internet," but that's not an argument that it's consistent with a law school's pedagogical mission to fund even more extravagant distractions.


Blogger Will said...

Here are four.

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Baude is wrong here. Laptops, not to mention internet access, have taken a tremendous amount of focus off the professor and the dialogue he is trying to develop. Baude is proud of the fact that he declines to follow the class discussion and do other things, and he relies on his college or high school experiences to say that he'd have done it anyway. But that's not so. If students were directly engaged in the class rather than engaging in their own chit-chat, they would have to work it out in the forum that law school provides. In other words, Baude's claim is incredibly radical: the destruction of the law school classroom as it has existed, and the removal of professorial control of the classroom experience. Did the faculties choose this? Is this something that is pedagogically sound? Did anybody even bother to think about it? Or did nobody have the foresight to keep laptops out of classrooms and now it just seems petty not to add campus-wide WiFi? This is an accident, but an accident that changes the way the entire educational experience runs. How about a little deliberation?

9:11 PM  
Blogger Will said...

Baude has in fact had classes that forbade the internet in law school. Those were nice too. But yes, I do think it's better to allow a more decentralized and dynamic conversation with a great deal more information and no single choke-point, at least here.

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You and the rest of the anti-wifi pundits are missing the point. There are a dozen unimpeachable reasons for having wifi in the law school itself, but there simply isn't a cost-effective way to segregate the signals from individual classrooms. At least with the campus here at UT.

You're right in that there isn't one reason that justifies wifi use at the expense of distraction in class--though increasing class attendance, which is never mentioned in the various debates on this subject and is substantial, and conversing about topics from the material with my fellow students are close.

My class participation would be better w/o wifi, but then again my health would be better if they stopped stocking the vending machine with Doritos.

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