And Maybe if We Didn’t Care About Attendance . . .

Slashdot has an article up about websurfing in the classroom and the the backlash against it. I find the whole concept amusing for the following reason:

People pay attention at any given moment to what matters most to them.

I have a professor currently who finds it quite rude to surf. But he also finds it upsetting when people skip class. The reason: he has put his time into putting together lectures and feels our time is best spent listening. In fact, just today the reaction to us being given time to work on final projects in class and not using that time is to threaten to resume regular lecture.

I typically sit in class working on something class related while ignoring the prof until s/he says or does something more worth my attention. In this way I get maximal value from my time. Likewise, I expect some people code better at night and would rather sleep in (through our morning class) and code at night.

Students need to understand if they’re going to completely ignore the prof they may as well just skip. Profs need to understand despite their PhD’s, listening to them talk may not be optimal for all students and skipping and ignoring may both be optimal behaviors to be tolerated (if not encouraged). We all want people to listen to us, but that’s no excuse for being offended by behavior designed to optimize our own individual performance.


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