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Brown Comments On Laptops

Professors worry that as wireless networks and laptops become ubiquitous, students will direct about as much attention to the front of the room as airline passengers do to a flight attendant reviewing safety information. To keep students focused on class, some professors now ban laptops from their classrooms, arguing that the devices are just too much of a temptation. A few colleges have set up systems that let professors switch off classroom Internet access during some sessions. KENNETH G. BROWN, associate professor at the University of Iowa's business school, recently asked the technology staff there to install an Internet kill switch in classrooms. "I don't want to ban laptops across the board because increasingly we have a lot of students who are using laptops to take notes, and they seem to get some real advantage out of that," he says. But he says he is concerned about the distractions the Internet can allow. He would ask a student reading a newspaper to put it down, he says, but he has no way of knowing whether a student with a laptop is taking notes or reading an online paper. "As more and more laptops come in," he says, "I'd like to have the ability to have the same level of control that I have over people reading the newspapers."

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