Adam Silver | Thank you for not surfing

The Silver Lining | Computers in class offer a window into your personal life

· September 19, 2012, 1:30 am

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Adam Silver
The Silver Lining

Professors that ban laptops from their classrooms argue that MacBooks and PCs detract from learning.

But in reality, I have learned some very interesting things by looking at the glowing screens of the people in front of me in lecture.

In the fall of my sophomore year, I learned all the rush targets of an off-campus fraternity. One of its members, who sat in front of me in a political science seminar, spent more time Facebook stalking freshman dudes than he did taking notes on what the professor had to say about Edmund Burke.

Last semester, in my gargantuan psychology lecture, I learned that the girl who sat in front of me was also in two of my other classes. Instead of hanging on to Professor Connolly’s words, she spent all of her time on Penn InTouch. (P.S. If you are reading, are you happy with your course selection this semester? I saw you picked “Introduction to American Politics” with DiIulio — isn’t it great?)

In the introductory Communication courses I have taken — with a gender ratio that could get a freshman guy into an open party even post-NSO — I learned which online shopping websites offer the best deals on nail polish and rain boots.

The most egregious case occurred in my Econ 001 class freshman year, where I learned a lot about myself, as the girl a few rows in front of me was checking out my Facebook. (It was very unfair of you to click left on my profile pictures and start your cyber judgment with 8th-grade-brace-face Adam).

So yes, laptops certainly detract from learning, but at the same time, they enable a whole new level of learning — about people’s personal lives.

It’s nearly impossible for a student to be on his or her laptop for a full hour and not check Facebook at least once. I still hate watching classroom surfers.

And it’s not just because I am a nerd or a stickler for the rules (anyone who knows me well knows that I am, in fact, both of these things), but also because it’s distracting and makes me uncomfortable — especially as I watch you check out my senior prom pics.

But even nerds and sticklers succumb to the temptation of email, Facebook, fantasy football and live streaming soccer games on ESPN3 (I still feel really bad about that one — I swear it was just once).

Sure, there are some wonderfully annoying students out there (read: freshmen) who put their Microsoft Word on full screen and diligently type every single word that comes out of the professor’s mouth. However, these students come few and far between.

The main reason I try not to surf the web in class is privacy. I don’t want people behind me to know that the only person who ever chats me online is Sara Silver (my mom).

I’m not advocating a ban on laptops in the classroom. As someone who can’t read his own handwriting, I definitely need my laptop for note taking.

I don’t even think that professors need to enforce “no surfing” policies. A simple solution is for students to become aware that their brigades into the cyber world reveal way too much about their personal lives.

So to all the strangers out there that have given me a window into your life: thanks, but no thanks.

It is distracting for me and really embarrassing for you. Next time you meander away from your notes and onto the internet, worry less about how you detract from what you learn in class and more about what I learn about you.

Adam Silver is a College junior and masters of public administration candidate from Scottsdale, Ariz. “The Silver Lining” appears every Wednesday. His email address is adamsilver0601@gmail.com and you can follow him @adamtsilver.

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