January 10, 2005

Wireless is More or Less a Moral Lesson

by Armen

In the middle of the fall semester a few students here at Boalt asked students to sign a petition. While I'm generally in favor of anti-gravitational levitation to protect ants who commute on the same path as humans, I wasn't too sure about the petition to have wireless internet access in the classrooms.

I signed the petition anyway, in part with the mistaken belief that it would save more ants, but then I began doubting my decision very quickly. I'm paying money for a legal education, not any of the bells and whistles. If other schools want to have the latest technological advances, they're more than welcome to do so, but does that obligate Boalt to accomodate current students' whims? No, probably not.

Probably and not definitely because it goes without saying that there's a lot that tech advances can add to learning. I just fail to see how wireless internet access in the classroom adds anything. (If anyone is willing to testify under oath that he/she used wireless internet access to quickly look up a case, etc. for the sole purpose of enhancing his/her learning experience then I'm willing to reconsider, but until then, I still maintain that there is nothing of educational value to be gained from wireless in the classroom).

"OK fine, Armen, you're right that there's no OBLIGATION to add wireless in classrooms, but it would go a long way to make current students happy and attract top talent."

So playing Yahoo Games, IMing in the classroom, or answering e-mails, is your idea of happineess while in law school? And do we really want 0Ls who will make their decision on the fact that they will be able to partake in said activities while in class? I say no thanks. But if anyone's interested in signing a petition to have DirectTV in every seat, let me know.

January 10, 2005 4:15 AM | TrackBack

Do students only use classrooms during classes over there? I know that we would often set up camp in empty classrooms for study sessions, group meetings, paper research, etc.

Posted by: Craig at January 10, 2005 10:28 AM

Good point. But here there's wireless out in the courtyard and in the cafe. This along with the fact that reserving classroom space is an exercise in dealing with bureaucracy makes recreational classroom use that requires internet access fairly rare.

P.S. I'm writing this comment via wireless access during the first day of Property.

Posted by: Armen at January 10, 2005 1:22 PM

Honestly, wireless is the biggest distraction I've ever had to face in my entire education. Every semester I start out by leaving my wireless card either at home or in my locker while I go to class, but, inevitably, I start to pack it in with my computer "just so I can check email." Then it escalates. Sometimes it's news sites. Other times it's the IM demon. But, by the end of the semester, even if I like the class, I'm surfing the internet for almost the whole of each class period. Even if I'm paying attention, one hand is idly taking me to fark.com or CNN or any of the numerous blawgs I read.

However, for those interminably long classes where the importance comes from the reading and not lecture, wireless can be a blessing. :)

Posted by: Adam at January 10, 2005 4:05 PM

Well, the ass who sat in front of me in Constitutional Law today checked his bank account, checked his stocks, checked his grades, played games, IM'd, checked and wrote e-mail, and read the news. It was distracting and really irritating. And he was in the front freaking row! That takes some nerve. If you're going to goof off the whole time you should at least have the decency to hide in the back of the room.

Posted by: Buff1L at January 10, 2005 6:59 PM

Or you could pay attention and stop reading off his screen. The presence of a patch of interesting colors in a 1.5 square-foot area shouldn't be that overwhelming.

Posted by: Will Baude at January 10, 2005 8:07 PM

More than 5 hours away from a decent link and I go into withdrawal. But, there's nothing better than the constant partial attention provided by wireless internet to prepare you for your CrackBerry addicted future.

Posted by: Brew at January 17, 2005 5:08 PM

I can safely say under oath that I have used Westlaw and Lexis for looking up things (cases, statutes, etc.) solely for the purpose of enhancing my educational experience.

That said, there's a lot of non-enhancing stuff going on, too. Although even with IM, a lot of conversations center around the class topic, sort of an undercurrent related to the topic.

Posted by: Mackenzie at January 19, 2005 12:13 PM

If there was one iota or hint of any sorts that the use of IM in the classroom would reduce unnecessary questions, I'd install wireless myself.

Posted by: Armen at January 19, 2005 10:37 PM

Well, I don't necessary think it does that, but when people are asking those questions, I'm paying less attention, so I guess it does sort of accomplish that goal. :)

Posted by: Mackenzie at January 20, 2005 9:04 PM

I vote for wireless everywhere. My school (BU) has it. Granted it's only recently that it's worked reliably, but we missed it when it didn't. For one, rooms are used for multiple purposes (not just lectures). For another, there are legitimate educational reasons for having Internet accessibility during class (the construction of our school means that wireless is the only way to get it): e.g., checking documents on the course website when the professor mentions them, or during OCI having ready access to email for the last minute interviews that could get scheduled, or getting clarifications on what the professor just said via IM (yes, it's happened), etc.

Personal judgment and discretion determine whether wireless access might negatively affect one's academic performance. It doesn't do so automatically.

Now I say all this as someone whose entire laptop has recently gone kaput and has been taking notes by hand all this semester. Clearly I can live without technology, Internet-connected or standalone. But I don't think that evidence of my survival necessitates the conclusion that others should be deliberately deprived of the option.

(And my lack of connectivity is just forcing my classmates to IM me by passing notes on scraps of paper. Clearly the Internet is more discrete, and saves more trees...)

Posted by: Cathy at January 23, 2005 5:59 PM

And computer solitaire is more efficient than taking out the deck of bicycle cards each time. I'm still not convinced that any non-entertainment use of wireless occupies anything more than a miniscule portion of total usage.

Posted by: Armen at January 23, 2005 11:55 PM
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