May is when I reflect on the just-completed academic year. Today’s topic is frustration caused by students’ distracting classroom use of laptops, phones, and other gadgets. As described in a Globe story titled “Tangled in an Endless Web of Distractions,” it is not an isolated problem My “gadget ghetto” solution did not work because I did not follow through on monitoring usage. Wandering behind gadget users while teaching does not fit my classroom traffic pattern. I cannot give up. I need another fix. I don’t want to ban laptops because it would punish students who use them appropriately and effectively. I doubt I could convince the school to mount giant mirrors along the back and side classroom walls, and if they did I’d have to see myself teach. One friend–a former student who works for Google–says I should ban them. Period. Google, the world’s information organizer and quintessential Internet company, has no-laptop meetings. “Let them take notes the old-fashioned way. On paper.” One student said I should shame students by telling them mid-class to stop texting and put their phones away. I’ve done that a few times, but it doesn’t capture students peering at laptops who could be taking verbatim notes or trading stocks. (I could use it, though, on students looking at their screens and laughing while I’m discussing agency law.) Another said I should cold-call people using laptops to see if they are paying attention. I’ve done that, but clearly not often enough to instill universal fear of public embarrassment.
That might work. One more thing to add to the FAQs.