e-phobia makes e-textbooks impractical at SIU

Gadgets have been expressly banned in enough SIU classes that an implicit ban exists across the board. I’ve had several e-textbooks but I wouldn’t dare use them in an SIU classroom.

To access course materials and take notes on a laptop could be a leap in efficiency for many students. Sadly, it would be a spectacle in most SIU classrooms. Even today, a professor interrupted lecture time
to tell students to put away their laptops.

While classrooms everywhere are filled with laptops and tablets — some schools such as Northern Michigan State even issue them to all incoming students  — the SIU academic culture simply doesn’t allow for modern technology.

I’d bet there are students here who have never sat in a classroom without a laptop in front of them. To limit a present-day student’s learning tools to a pencil and notebook to keep them from texting or playing Minesweeper during class is like limiting an earlier generation’s tools to a stone tablet and chisel to keep them from making paper airplanes, spitballs and shivs.

The key differences are that texting and Minesweeper don’t disrupt class, and that paper and
pencil, despite their potential for malice, have never been banned from a classroom.

Because of the pervasive anti-technology mindset at SIU, electronic versions of textbooks are rendered practically useless to an SIU student. Who will take the risk of buying a required textbook in a form that is going to be banned from class?

The fact that entering a new homework due date in my smart phone calendar has to be a covert operation is just dumbfounding. In addition to banning learning tools from the classroom, SIU also shuns mobile technology outside the classroom. SIUC is one of few institutions whose online coursework is not accessible via a mobile device. SIUE has that. Even the nearby community colleges have that.

To access SIU’s wireless network from a laptop or mobile device tends to be an ordeal. To plug any USB drive into a Morris Library computer to save a document elicits a screen-filling onslaught of error messages. The “waitlist” option on SalukiNet is visible, but non-functional. The student ID keycard readers have been removed from the entrances they once secured and replaced with human bouncers. There was a very temporary SIU Mobile iPhone app. It is no longer available and served no function when it was.

The point here is that I believe the university doesn’t understand technology. I believe its fear stems from its ignorance. Invariably, that has proven to be a very ugly and ultimately shameful way of thinking.

Instead of hiding the toolbox from the kids so they don’t damage anything, the university should encourage the use of available tools so that its students have every opportunity to build something worthwhile. Embracing the implication that studying an e-book rather that a textbook is too complicated or distracting for students at a university level is insulting at best.

The university could benefit all around by fostering a more enlightened culture.

Travis Donoho
Senior from Iuka majoring in pre-physician assistant studies

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