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Web Surfing is Elephant in Harvard Faculty Room

At a meeting to discuss the findings of a university task force on teaching and career development, Harvard professors called student apathy for learning--expressed by classroom Web surfing and lack of energy--an "elephant in the room" contributing to a decline in the quality of classroom and general education at the university.

Latin prof Kathleen Coleman called for "mutual commitment on the part of teachers and learners" to head off the problem, according to a report in the Harvard Crimson.

 "Some students don't come to class, or they come late, or they surf the Web during lectures or even sections, I've noticed," she said. "Crucially, they are tired all of the time. Factors like these are not the elephant in the room. They are an entire herd of elephants, and they will trample all of us and our students to death."

At the end of the meeting retiring University Library chief Sidney Verba also discussed Harvard's collaboration with Google in digitizing its holdings, the Crimson reported. "Their goal really is to digitize everything that has been written, spoken, or thought since the invention of the homo sapiens," said Verba, who holds one of Harvard's 21 University professorships.

According to Verba, approximately 1 million books have already been digitized by Google, which is currently involved  in lawsuits concerning the scanning of works still under copyright.  "My hair was dark brown before I started working on it with the Google people," Verba said.

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About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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