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27 September 2006



How old are the students? I definately wouldn't comment on it in front of the class--it's not definately not that disturbing. The thing is, it's not like doodling or daydreaming--I'd say it's more like talking or passing notes in class, you're just lucky that it's just one person and not two. If he continues to do it, you might just stop him after class and frame it as something you should be doing better--ie, "I noticed you didn't seem to be following the lecture today, etc." and see if he fesses up or at least looks guilty. :)


I definitely wouldn't say anything in front of the class--I don't like embarrassing the students, and I certainly don't want to cause even more of a disruption than the actual act. It's a good suggestion, though, to mention it to him after class if it keeps up.


I mean, on one hand, it's really only a problem if 1. you're grading on participation and/or 2. his grade is not awesome. At the same point, it's disrespectful of him to be ignoring you in class while you're up there working (working!) for his benefit. If it were my kids, I'd totally be laying a smack down, but there's a difference b/w high school and college for, um, many reasons.

David Moles

Maybe you could just say, in a general way, that if anyone's going to be websurfing or IMing instead of paying attention, could they please move to the back? Then you're not calling him out specifically, but he knows you've noticed.

(And it is kind of disruptive -- as one of the other students, I'd sure be tempted to read his IM or whatever over his shoulder....)


The class I taught this summer met in a computer lab room, so everyone had a computer in front of them. I tried to take advantage of the technology by having them look up web pages or download things I posted to Blackboard, so in that sense it was convenient. But yeah, they all spent a fair amount of time surfing the Internet during class.

It was annoying, but I didn't feel I could say or do much about it. A couple of times it was disruptive (for example, when they'd open a page with embedded music or sound effects), and the students caught out would look suitably embarrassed. Of course, that didn't stop them from doing it again.

I think if it had been a class during the normal academic year, so meeting just a couple of times a week rather than every day, I would have made a general announcement of some kind. But it is a really tricky situation. With just one person, perhaps talking to him after class really would be the best solution.

Jackie M.

See, I would totally point that sort of thing out in class, if I thought I could keep it humorous: "Hey, Bob! Good news from your online dating service?" If it gets a laugh, then you're not a bitch.

But I guess I feel that if it's not actually disruptive to the class (or distracting to you), then these students are adults: it's their money, their time, their investment. If they're truly effective multitaskers, more power to 'em; otherwise, they're free to waste their education however they see fit.

(I quite like David's suggestion, actually. Especially for days when you know you're going to be doing stunt math. )

Jackie M.

Chris says: is this in a big lecture hall with a dedicated wireless router? You could just find the sucker and unplug it for an hour every day.

Margaret DeAngelis

Last year I visited the Pennsylvania state legislature's House of Representatives while it was in session. It's like a theater or concert hall, and the public gallery is at the top, behind and above all the legislators. A vote had been called, and people were making speeches about whatever it was they were about to vote on. Every representative has a laptop at his or her place, and I observed a whole lot of surfing and solitaire playing and IMing. My tax dollars at work!

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Susan Marie Groppi

  • Susan Marie Groppi is a historian and an editor, currently living in Berkeley, California.


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