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Laptops Become Standard Classroom Gear

If you peek into American college classrooms these days, you might not believe the number of electronic gadgets being used there.

We're not talking about the old sprocket-film projector and a pull-down screen. Now there are multi-media systems that make instant slides from images on the Internet, project text that can be edited, and pull in video from all over the world.

And today's students -- who grew up using calculators and mini-tape recorders in lower grades -- are recording entire lectures on devices no bigger than a candy bar. They're also setting up their laptop computers, claiming they can take notes faster and more legibly on a laptop than they can by hand. Who writes anything longhand any more, anyway?

And this is where professors at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Memphis, and elsewhere are drawing the line. They've banned laptops in their classes.

That's because they're catching students playing video poker, looking at pornographic Web sites or music videos, e-mailing friends -- even working on assignments for other classes -- using the university's wireless Internet connection. Asked afterward what the professor had to say that day, they haven't the slightest idea. "There isn't even eye contact [between teachers and students] in classes any more," grumbled a chemistry professor at the University of Oregon.

Eye contact? He wants eye contact? Easy. Upload a close-up of himself, talking and pointing to the Periodic Table of Elements, as a video stream into the students' laptops!