One of my colleagues from the University of New Mexico, Sergio Pareja is here in Guanajuato teaching International Business Transactions. He wrote the following email to our faculty about laptop use in the classroom. I thought it would be of interest to other classroom teachers, so I asked him if I could share it with this blog. He agreed.
“I have never have taught in a pre-internet/laptop world. Last time I taught here in Guanajuato, my students all had internet access in class. This year, we are in a different room, and the decision was made to shut off the wireless internet access to the room. I think some sort of scrambler technology is used. I have been told that the internet can be turned on or left off, depending on what the professor wants.
In short, this summer is the first time I have ever taught in a class that cannot access the internet. Although I had always thought of my students as engaged before, nothing compares to this. I am teaching the exact same subject as two years ago so I feel like it´s a fair comparison. Several students have laptops this year, but NOBODY just stares at the laptop screen. I find it weird, and extremely engaging, to have eye contact with every student in class. Even when we cover the necessary “dry” portions of the course, everybody pays attention. In short, I am having a lot more fun, and my students are learning much more.
I know some people like to have the option of having students have access to the internet in class. I understand that some people like it when their students can look up cases, etc. Some people like using clickers as well. My preference is to not use any of those things, but I accept that there are differences of opinion on that.
This summer has made me think that we should have a discussion on this topic to consider options that would be pleasing to everybody. If the technology exists here in Guanajuato, Mexico to turn the wireless internet on and off in individual classes, I am sure it exists in New Mexico. Having experienced life without classroom internet, I would prefer to have it off in class, but I don´t want to come across as the bad guy to my students. I am wondering if we can consider a “default” of having the internet off in classrooms with each professor given the option to turn it on if they want it for their classes, either for the whole semester or for a class at a time. This would make nobody look bad for shutting off the internet, but it would let those who want it continue to use it.”