Whose problem is it, anyway?

Ilkka resurrects the debate, such as it is, on laptops in classrooms:

As far as I am concerned, as long as the student doesn’t bother me or other students, they can do anything they want on their laptops whenever there is a lull in the communication from me to them. Especially in the adult school (and I am so old that I can remember a time when even an 18-year-old was considered an adult), if somebody really pays a grand for the privilege to sit in a course and then doesn’t listen to what I say, that’s entirely up to him.

Quite.  I think laptop bans (which have been made utterly obsolete by the smartphone anyway) are ostensibly intended to prevent disruptive students from using Scary New Technology to disrupt the Classroom Experiences of their neighbours, but — spoiler warning — disruptive students will find a way to do that regardless.  I suspect that the true motivation is left-over Puritanism: laptops represent Temptation (Facebook, games, porn, &c.) and therefore laptop bans signal respect for Temperance and a Strong-Willed Work Ethic.  (This is similar to the simple-minded “a calorie is a calorie” view of nutrition, in which obesity is caused by Gluttony and Sloth and therefore the fatties have it coming.)  Running a strong second is the suspicion that laptop bans are nothing more than gratuitous exercise of authority, to remind the customers oops, the students of who’s really in charge and cement the prof’s authority; in this respect laptop bans are very much like the guards’ sunglasses in the Stanford Prison Experiment.


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