14.0759 multitasking; or, the obsolescence of concentration

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Wed Mar 21 2001 - 01:41:42 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 759.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2001 06:36:05 +0000
             From: John Lavagnino <John.Lavagnino@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: Decorum; or, Kids these days!

    Ian Ayres, a law professor at Yale, has an opinion piece in the New
    York Times for March 20, 2001, under the title "Lectures vs. Laptops";
    it's about the scourge of students using their laptops during classes
    for things other than note-taking (e-mail, games, web surfing).

                ... I was surprised at how brazenly my own students
                resisted my laptop restrictions, both in class discussion
                and in a virtual chat room (which, perversely, they could
                post to during their other classes). They argued that they
                were multitasking, staying productive during dead or badly
                taught portions of class. They said classroom surfing
                reduces sleepiness, increases their willingness to attend
                class, allows them to research legal questions being
                discussed, and so on. They said the professor has an
                incentive to teach more effectively when he or she must
                compete against other more interesting claims on students'

                Their arguments could apply equally well to the opera hall,
                the jury box or the church pew. Will the lure of
                technological stimulation someday overwhelm current mores
                about paying attention in those places, too? At least, we
                should try to stem the tide in the classroom. ...

    Curiously enough, there was an article in the Times within the last
    few years about how Americans now assume they can also eat anywhere
    they like, and are having to be told that (for example) you shouldn't
    bring snacks to church.

    John Lavagnino
    Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

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