Miami Herald On Wireless Use at UM Law.

Today's Miami Herald runs an article, Wireless web treads fine line on campus (reg. req.), discussing the increased use of wireless computers at UM Law. The reporter who interviewed and quoted me seemed primarily interested in whether students are using the new tools to goof off in class, although that isn't the most interesting thing about wireless. But that's what the bulk of the article is about.

I actually think my students are taking notes on those things, but maybe I'm naive…

[UPDATE: Below I've added the stuff the Herald quoted me as saying for the benefit of those put off by the Herald's registration requirement.]

“That stuff is really self-correcting. If they want to dig themselves a hole and jump into it … our students are adults,” said Michael Froomkin, who teaches an Internet Law class at UM. “They can make their choices and live with the consequences.”

Froomkin said he has heard a lot of talk about Web surfing in class, but believes the problem is exaggerated. He is far more annoyed when cell phones ring and disturb the entire class.

“Daydreaming in class is as old as classes. People, when they're writing, you don't know if they're writing notes or writing the great American novel or writing a letter home. And it's the same thing with the laptop,” he said. “You don't know if they're taking notes or sending instant messages about your bow tie across the room.”

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8 Responses to Miami Herald On Wireless Use at UM Law.

  1. 1-L Student says:

    If Miami didn’t have wireless Internet access in the classrooms, you would have a lot more instances of your students sleeping in class. Sometimes it’s a reflection of the material, but I would say that most of the time the teaching level at Miami is so poor that when combined with required attendance, the only way to deal with the pure boredom is to use the Internet. After all, it would be rude to whip out a paper version of the NY Times.

    Written from a 1-L class on the Miami wireless system.

  2. Michael says:

    Well, maybe not too often in my class? I talk very fast and most people seem quite intent on keeping up.

    More generally, you may find law school more interesting once you get to pick your courses — and more importantly your teachers.

  3. UM1L says:

    I completely disagree w/ the first 1L’s comment. If you have access to the internet while in class, you’re more inclined to use it to goof off and thus find the class materials way less interesting when you actually *do* try to pay attention. After all, it’s usually cumulative.
    I think it’s embarrassing how often my classmates go on the internet during class (not just IMs either, but online gambling and downloading movies). Why blame the faculty for your own apathy?

  4. Michael says:

    So I assume the Herald reporter actually has some proof that you can’t be bored and inattentive in a class where you take notes with paper and pencil? No? I thought not . . . My own class notes from the bygone paper and pencil days seem to show that certain classes included a substantial component of freehand doodling, chess, and criticism of the lecture and/or the lecturer . . . Students and teachers didn’t change their natures from the clay-and-scriber days through the paper-and-ballpoint days, and computers aren’t going to change them now.

  5. Barsk says:

    It depends on the Professor. Professor Froomkin speaks quickly and so I never goof off in his class, and have thus taken something like 85 pages worth of notes so far.

    Also I don’t think that the teaching at Miami is “so poor”. I think it’s quite good, but I also think that is a function with the level of interaction I try to take in class.

    As for mandatory attendance, I think that needs to go…if people don’t want to show up it is their loss (at least that’s how I feel).

  6. D says:

    In my nearly 2 years of law school, I have never brought a laptop to class for the simple reason that it is just to tempting to not pay attention and kill time with the computer. I find it amazing just how many laptop people are reading email, news,IM, etc. and not taking notes on the computer. Sure, they all have a word document opened and will occaisonally type a line or two, but the vast majority of screens I can see at any time are on CNN, AOL, or MSN.

    Even if this is keeping the reader from drifting off to sleep, this is still not good because it encourages the paper and pen student sitting behind to focus on the internet instead of the professor, then, when the laptop person moves on to something less interesting on the internet, the student behind is lost in the lecture. Once this happens, the paper and pen student is the one who fights the losing battle with boredom and is likely to nod off.

    This is not a problem related only to wireless internet though, before the wireless network was available in every classroom, these same people still weren’t paying attention. When you are dealing with the type of person who has this little respect for the classroom environment, it is inevitable that they will find some distracting way to amuse themselves. Last year, it was Snood and MagicBall, or even Solitaire or Minesweeper. Now, they have the internet. Either way, if the lecture lags even a little, they get my attention whether I want them to have it or not.

    I do disagree with the first comment, by and large the 1L faculty seemed to be pretty good teachers, at least last year. I will also say that the classes are indeed more interesting when you pick them yourself and that even professors you might not have cared for in 1L classes can be completely different in classes that are more in their areas of interest and that they really have fun teaching.

    Without disparaging 1-L Student too much, I think this is exactly the kind of comment made by the type of student who manages to do everything but take notes on their laptop during class. This is not generally an indication that the faculty is at fault. I think it far more likely that these students who must be constantly stimulated to stay awake in class are simply incapable of remaining focused on a subject of any intellectual depth for an entire class period. I blame television.

  7. Brian says:

    I Am the student that gave the interview that was printed in the Herald. Of course, the bulk of the interview was about online classrooms, the usefullness of TWEN, the quality of the faculty etc. etc. When asked if I had any anecdotes about people using the wireless I gave him (stupidly) that story; prefaced by the fact that it was a rare occurrence and that I didn’t think that students were in general distracted or unnattentive. Of course, what sells is “scandal”, not praise.

    As far as the faculty goes at UM the quality, diversity, and intellect that is present is immense; if students choose to waste their time on frivolity while in the learning environment it is not from lack of stimulation.

    With respect to abuse of the internet: Is it an epidemic? No. Is it going to happen in class? Certainly. Is academia headed in a downward, uncontrollable spiral of internet abuse? Hardly. As has been mentioned before goofing off is not a new art, people will always find ways of being distracted. And law school has the ultimate weight hanging at the other end of the balance: the final. If you want to not pay attention in class you do so at your own risk; I do not envy your hermit like behavior before and during the reading period.


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