Should colleges ban laptops in class?

A debate has sprung up on my campus lately about whether it is acceptable to use a laptop in class, with a technology panel and two school paper articles on the subject. I wrote last January about my decision not to use a laptop in class based on my inability to keep up with typed notes, but rather than actual note taking, the current debate is largely over the way that students slack off with their laptops in class. While many students do use their laptops to take notes, it is my impression that even more use them to check their social networks instead of paying attention to the lecture.

The problem stems from a lack of communication between students and professors. Professors need to inform their students of their policy on laptop use in class, and students need to ask professors’ permission before they bring theirs out. Over my seven semesters in college, I have had a professor list her laptop policy in the class syllabus only once. This should be standard. Quickly googling “laptop syllabus” brings up hundreds of class syllabi with varied laptop policies, but including one is by no means standard, especially at my college.

Students should also communicate with each other more and tell their classmates when their computer use bothers them. I’ll admit it, when I’m trying to pay attention to the lecture, even someone’s screensaver in the row ahead of me can be a major distraction. My friend Cordelia was recently quoted in our school newspaper on this subject saying, “I personally don’t bring my laptop to class … So instead what I do in class is sit around and watch everyone else use their computers.” Making students aware of when their laptop use distracts classmates should lead to more courtesy.

The paper also brought up the idea of a “myth of student distraction,” saying that when a student has a laptop in class, the professor assumes that the student is slacking off rather than taking notes. I think professors deserve more credit than that. A professor in the front of the room can tell at a glance who is watching them, who is writing or typing notes, and who is just staring at their screen.

Where the “myth of student distraction” does become a problem is when professors impose a blanket ban on laptops without considering students who cannot learn well taking written notes. Teachers are obligated to provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities, and allowing digital note taking is one such allowance. But where do you draw the lines among students who have a medical disability requiring a laptop in class, students who could take notes by hand but simply prefer to use their computers, and students who would rather check Facebook than pay attention? I think this is up to the professor to decide. If the professor is not distracted by the tapping of digital note taking in class, why impose restrictions? But if having a distraction-free class would improve the quality of the lecture, I think professors should take a stand and restrict laptop use. Either way, colleges should not impose a policy on every class, and should instead leave the choice to the professor.

Another issue is whether the college has the right to tell us how to waste our tuition money. The paper quoted another one of my classmates, saying, “If I’m distracting myself, I’m devaluing my education. It’s my problem.” I completely disagree. Having your laptop out not only distracts other students, but is disrespectful and discouraging to professors. The professor has the right to create rules to foster a productive classroom environment. Saying laptops are not allowed is no different from saying that you must show up to class on time.

In all fairness, it’s pretty hypocritical of me to universally condemn digital goofing off. While I don’t use my laptop in class anymore, I’ve had classes in which we sat at workstations instead of desks, and sometimes the urge to check my email is too irresistible. Still, when students spend entire class periods playing games, distracting classmates, and clearly not paying attention, why come to class at all? Stay home, or stop distracting the rest of us.

  • Mike

    I think another angle to examine on this (which also ties in to your previous post on classroom pacing and participation) is that in my five years of college, my laptop often served as a “time capacitor” to allow me to smooth out the pace of instruction (For background, I need to maintain a certain level of information flow, or I go totally ADD; ironically, this means I will often get more out of a lecture while Facebooking then just sitting there).

    If I was sitting in Relativity, I could barely keep up with typing LaTeX quickly enough to get down the math (luckily I could catch up during the professor’s frequent anecdotes about drinking with the greats of the physics world).

    In classes where less attention was required (especially Computer Aided Manufacturing), I found that the laptop allowed me to finish up my problem sets for other classes, keep up with my lap group and project group via email and IM, and level up my World of Warcraft character at the same time. This last one pissed off some people, but strangely never enough that they wouldn’t ask for my typed notes when they missed a class…

    I don’t think it brings this topic any closer to a resolution; this is just something that resonated with me and I wanted to share my experience.

  • A Gould

    And folks are missing an obvious point: While high schools and below can realistically impose restrictions on class behavior (pick your reason: appeals to parents/you’re a minor/it’s required to attend), none of those restrictions apply in post-secondary education. You’re at the age of majority, and you’re paying to be there.

    Let me restate that: You are Paying To Be There.

    This makes you “the customer” – as long as you’re not disturbing other customers, the school should quiet down and supply the services they sold you. (And if the sound of your neighbor clicking and typing annoys you, are you in for a treat when you graduate to Cubicle Land!)

    All the other “reasons” are bupkis – you’ve been able to play games on graphic calculators for decades, and you can always find a way to ignore a boring lecture. All that’s happened is that students have a few more options on how to ignore the boring lecture. (And the solution is still the same: don’t give boring lectures.)

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  • Writer

    First off, good pen choice

    RE: A Gould
    The “fact” that you are a customer in higher education is very far from true in all cases, I’m going on a dare here and guessing it’s about half / half in the world. And if not fully funded by other means very often partially. Of course i can’t account for the laws in every country on earth but I’m going to guess that pretty much everywhere a ban of laptops could be placed if the right people cared enough.
    Where I study i don’t often have this problem, a couple of times a year maybe, but that may be due to the fact that so little; virtually none but exams, are mandatory. If the pace is too slow and there is little for you to do in the classroom, what would you waste your time on?
    Myself i bring my laptop to take notes, take all but math in LaTeX and when bored i write code on projects with friends, with a complete ban i would probably ignore it until I’m kicked out or drop those classes.

  • Kuba

    “Having your laptop out not only distracts other students, but is disrespectful and discouraging to professors.” As far as I understand, most lecture participation is optional anyway, so as long as I can type quietly (if I do type, that is), I can’t see it being distracting or discouraging. I have got A’s in grad school in classes where I was reading Harry Potter most of the time*. Using a notebook to work on something else would have been no different.

    * admittedly, the profs were driven up the wall, but had to, um, admit defeat in the end.

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  • David

    unless its hardcore porn dont blaim the screensaver for your lack of focus

  • James

    I sat in on a friend’s CS lecture (very basic; into to Java) because I was going to give a guest lecture to his students a few weeks later. It was an eye-opener. About 50% of the students were using laptops. Of those, around 50% were on Facebook. The remainder were approximately evenly divided between web browsing (including a guy who was browsing car auction websites for cars I’m pretty certain he couldn’t buy) and working on other classes. This latter group included folks who were working on coding for projects, people who were reviewing electronic lecture notes, and some student who was reading notes for what was clearly an introductory digital logic class.

    I was surprised at the time but thinking about it, these proportions could well match the proportions of engaged/goofing-off students in my own undergraduate classes (which were Physics, ca. 1991). Students didn’t generally have laptops then, so perhaps it wasn’t obvious, but I’m pretty sure that taking away laptops won’t magically make students suddenly interested in your class. Personally, there were a lot of lectures to which I just didn’t turn up, and worked on coding stuff instead (I failed that part of the Physics degree, partly as a result).

    FWIW, these proportions more or less matched the pass/scrape/unheroic-fail rates for his class at the end of that semester. Quite a few of the students were from other departments doing just this programming course, which explains why there can be a high failure rate for an intro-to-Java course in a CS department. However, although the proportions roughly match, I have no way to know whether the Facebook crowd were the unheroic failures, etc. That is, I have no idea if there is really a correlation between Facebooking in lectures and failing the course. Though I’m pretty sure the folks doing other coding projects were the folks who already knew Java and thus were pretty certain to pass.

    I’m against the banning of laptops. The folks reading other lecture notes and working on projects were pretty clearly the successful students. Penalising their effectiveness because other students in the class are idiots appears pretty pointless to me and IMO runs against any tradition of supporting academic excellence.

    If a department wants to ban (e.g.) Facebook or laptops in lectures because it increases the drop-out rate, I’d want to take a pretty close look at the incentive structure for that department (i.e. the funding). Bad students should be allowed to drop out, lest the department devalue its degrees. Clearly, it would be ideal if the department had managed to select students who were not going to drop out, but that’s a different kind of problem.

  • Odin Zifer

    Why not just sit in the front row if you have a distraction problem? In reference to “why don’t they just stay home if there going to play games” some classes still have some sort of attendance and/or when the tests will be.
    Sidenote: If you have trouble keeping up with notes use a camera.

  • A-Z

    In a climate of increased pressure and enticement toward technological forums and formats for education, with ubiquitous platforms for online degrees and power point handouts etc., we really need to decide whether the live lecture is an educational experience that should be preserved in its traditional integrity or if it is (or will) go the way of the dodo as technology pervades our lives. It is one thing for a professor to embrace new technologies as ways of enhancing a lecture (After all, we’ve come a long way since the chalk and board.), but it is quite another to allow technology to take away from what a lecture is supposed to be and has been.

    A professor friend once expressed her exasperation at the ‘twitter’ generation. She said, ‘They can’t process information beyond 140 characters.’ In other words, her students, evidenced by their behavior in class and the work they submit, are trending toward losing their ability to think about things ‘in depth,’ the very thing a college lecture is an example of and is designed to enable students to do. When professors have to compete with technology (rather than have it enhance the learning experience) the content (and emphasis!) of what is being taught gets reduced to ‘sound-bite’ education. The vital thread connecting all the pieces is frayed if not severed completely.

    I am not opposed to using technology, even in the classroom. However, the effects of specific technologies should be considered in specific social environments. Whether we are customers of our education or not, education is designed for an expressed purpose that seems to be getting short-circuited by the introduction of student laptops and particularly access to Wifi in the classroom. (The collective clicking noise alone can sometimes be maddening!) Sure, we should make exceptions for the disabled. Sure, there will be terrible lectures, the effects of which should be reflected in end of term evaluations. Sure, professors should make use of technology to aid/enhance the subject matters they are teaching. But as long as the interpersonal ‘classroom experience’ still holds value, mediating it with a dozen or more screen interfaces is detrimental.

    I personally found that using a digital audio recording device enhanced my experience of lectures. By using it I didn’t feel as much pressure to write down every little thing at that exact moment or worry about missing anything important. I was free to simply pay attention, relax even and think more critically about what I was being taught to the extent that I was able to generate a question or two that might draw the lecture closer to my personal interests and curiosity. This is most important I think. Students who are constantly distracted (either by themselves or by others) are no longer engaged in what they are learning. I recommend audio (or video) recorders as an alternative to laptop use in the classroom. It is a fair compromise and professors could even make the recordings available to everyone online.

  • Dr. Pashayan

    Honestly, as an Undergrad I remember banning myself from using Laptops in class because I noticed, as an objective scientist, that it was basically veering my attention away from class and notes and more towards Grand Theft Auto, but that may have been the case due to bad teaching, but I have noticed several nerdier friends just using a text editing program to take notes, and successfully doing so. I believe the choice should be up to the student, but the student should be educated about the shortcomings.

  • Alimoe

    The fact of the matter here is that if a student wants to be distracted he or she will be distracted regardless of what rules or limitations are imposed on the class. If you take away their laptop, they’ll tool around on their cell phone. Take that away and they’ll doodle on paper or talk to people. There is no realistic way to guarantee students will pay attention in class, especially if the professor isn’t making any effort to make it engaging.

    As for distracting classmates, the corollary to the above rule applies. The student that does not want to be distracted will not be distracted. I mean, consider for a second how utterly silly and irresponsible it is to blame someone else for you failing a course or getting a lesser grade than you think you deserve because you were looking at their screen the entire semester. Do you think any boss would let this excuse fly if you were en employee and you tried blaming the fact that you missed a deadline on “coworker distraction”? I mean you’d probably avoid a chewing out but only because the boss would be laughing too hard.

  • Lewin Edwards

    I’m a mature-age student finishing the degree I should have finished 16 years ago (electrical engineering). As such I’m VERY conscious of the fact that I’m paying for my education, I’m VERY sensitive to people disturbing me in class and wasting my money, and I’m always looking for ways to take better/more portable notes in classes that have a lot of math and diagrams in them.

    Every single semester, I try taking digital notes, with a laptop, a tablet PC, various other hardware options – I invariably give up after a month or so, because I just can’t take good notes that way myself. (The only system I’ve found to work for me is to take handwritten notes then drop them in my scanner as soon as I get home). So for me “laptop as note taker” is a failed experiment. But I realize that for many people, and probably even more in other, more text-heavy majors, the laptop is a perfect note-taking tool.

    75% of the kids in my classes use laptops. Almost all of them are on Facebook or World of Warcraft-type games for the whole session. It doesn’t bother me in the least, as long as they’re not running with sound turned up. Clicking of keyboards and trackpad buttons is not a disturbing sound, and people who can’t deal with it really need to focus on reality.

    In my era at high school, calculators weren’t allowed in exams; you were expected to know (for instance) the values of sin/cos/tan for every pi/4 step through the [0,2pi] interval, and exam answers were expected in exact fractional or symbolic form. I still tend to reach for a pencil rather than a calculator when called upon to solve a simple integral, but I wouldn’t want to ban calculators for people who prefer to use them. Students need to be allowed to take advantage of whatever technology workes best FOR THE INDIVIDUAL STUDENT.

    If precious professors feel their egos are bruised by a roomful of students who aren’t paying attention (yet still getting good grades), they can simply train their student body: make sure that midterms and finals can’t be passed by anyone who wasn’t digesting the material as presented in class. You don’t NEED to stick to examples in the textbook, you know. It’s very easy to have a course that is impossible to pass for anyone who hasn’t paid attention in the bulk of the lectures.

    In summary: much ado about nothing.

  • Lorri

    NO. I don’t think that computers should be limited in college. At this point your life you are expected to be an adult and be responsible for your time, your note taking, your paying attention, etc. I can’t take hand written notes in meetings any more because I type faster than I write. I get better notes. If I choose to focus on something else then I take the penalty. The penalty in this case is you fail and learn to pay attention. If not, you don’t pass the test.

    I agree that this is more of a case of deflating the egos of an instructor. The same thing happens in the business world. Laptops, PDAs, etc are all available in the buiness world and are used in meetings. I say to the professor or presentor – too bad, get over it, make your presentataion more compelling and we’ll all sit there in rapture. But banning these tools is absurd and a childish response to your hurt feelings.

    One point to note – at every meeting I have been in for the past 10 years (when I started packing laptops to every meeting) I have found that I have taken better notes, had them out in a more timely fashion, with internet connection I have been able to actively add to the discussion, discover information that was going to be “researched” and the meetings have been a much richer experience.

    Use the tools you have and learn from them!

  • Dan

    “I’ll admit it, when I’m trying to pay attention to the lecture, even someone’s screensaver in the row ahead of me can be a major distraction.”

    You could, you know, sit in the front row.

  • Uber Geek

    The question boils down to, should we allow anything else than Mac in the classroom. Since seeing those inferior machines can be really disturbing and leave emotional scars for life similar to PTS.

  • MikeA

    I think laptops should be allowed and as one person pointed out…those of us in the workplace have tons of distractions around us so these kids better get used to it…businesses aren’t quiet places so if laptops in a class bother you….good luck later on when you are next to loud cubies. Also, if you have a laptop, it doesn’t make sense to drag along pen/paper then have to do double the work to get your notes transcribed to electronic format…if I were using a laptop I might just have word open and jot down notes…although I can see many others doing the facebook thing as well as games or other non-class related activities. For those instances then YES it would be appropriate to make them stop especially IF they are distracting others–as someone earlier mentioned…we are paying to be there so that doesn’t give others the right to cause major distractions at the expense of other’s learning…cuts both ways….here’s a thought…be considerate of your fellow human beings and then these things won’t be issues…imagine that…

  • Professor Precious

    According to Lewin Edwards: “If precious professors feel their egos are bruised by a roomful of students who aren’t paying attention (yet still getting good grades), they can simply train their student body: make sure that midterms and finals can’t be passed by anyone who wasn’t digesting the material as presented in class.”

    This “precious professor” follows a simple philosophy: sink or swim, it’s your choice. I have only one rule and that is to turn your cell phones off and that is out of courtesy.

    I am a firm believer that everyone learns in their own way and that may require the use of recorders, note-takers or laptops. The technology is there as a tool, but just like a gun it is not the gun itself that is the problem – it is the user. The student is responsible for how they use the tools available to them. If you want to screw around on your laptop during lecture – knock yourself out. But when that student comes to me worried that they won’t pass the class or they bombed the exam I am unsympathetic. If that student happens to be a great student and does well despite messing around on their laptop, then bully for them. They have to find their own rhythm.

    My students learn early on that if they are not present and engaged in the course that they may miss out on critical information. I am living proof. There is a reason why in undergrad, one of my notebooks was one long cartoon – the class was boring as hell and obviously I didn’t do as well as I could have. But because of that experience, I work hard to make my lectures entertaining, practical and useful. But in the end, I can be only so entertaining and animated – the audience has to be engaged in the process for the show to work. A course is no different and if a student chooses not to be a part of the process then they are missing out. I do my job (and quite well, thanks), it is up to the student to do theirs however that works for them (or not!).

    In the end, it is the choice of the student how they want to experience the course. Ultimately, you get out of it what you put into it. My job is to teach the material, provide the tools and support my students – not police them. They are old enough to make their own choices and deal with the consequences of them. I tell my students the very first day of class that they will do my course like they do their lives: some give it their all and shine, some drag themselves through it and scrape by, some wander lost in the wilderness, and some unplug and disengage. Just don’t come whining to me if you fail due to self-inflicted stupidity.

  • Daniel Weber

    At UMBC, laptop use varies by professor. Some allow them all the time; some only allow them at specific times; some explicitly ban them. Maybe its just from having a high proportion of nerds, but laptop policy is almost always explicitly explained, either in the syllabus or during the first day of class.

    I’ve never really sat in a good position to see how people use laptops, but from those who I could see (those sitting in the first couple rows) would multitask. When the professor is going over new stuff, taking notes. When the professor goes over known concepts, browsing the internet or playing a game. Most students I know prefer to carry a laptop with them either to not be bored during a lecture or to do work related to the class.

  • JQM

    The students are making a choice about the best use of their time, and this should be encouraged. That said, people are shortsighted and there must be a compelling reason to make the choice to forgo the short term enjoyment of Facebook, et al and pay attention.

    Some of my best classes have been when the professor follows the textbook (gasp!), assigns homework for every section in advance (double gasp!), the textbook is good enough to learn from as a stand alone (triple gasp!), and spends their lecture time expounding on the key material from the section (apoplexy!). Okay, these were math classes, but I really learned from being able to read the book, work the problems in class, and listen to the lecture when the book wasn’t doing it for me.

  • Keltset

    I just finished a year of postbac classes. I considered my laptop a critical asset in helping me do well in classes and really help with time management. I used a combination of downloading the powerpoints then using microsoft one note to take notes on the powerpoints and then an online flashcard app that synced to my iphone (so can almost copy paste with some minor editing notes I just typed out). Sure there was a strong temptation to surf the web when the professors drifted off but overall this combination really sped up my intake and digestion of the material.

  • Harry Erwin, PhD

    I started using a laptop in class in the early 1990s, when I was doing my neuroscience PhD. It was much more convenient than taking written notes back in 1968-72, when I was doing a math PhD. It doesn’t bother me to lecture to a classroom of students using laptops.

  • Jim Worthey

    Not to change the subject, but some people question the need for lectures. For example, read the blog of Philip Greenspun, who has in the past taught computer science at MIT. I think he would argue for the use of computers and other media to transmit information.

    Being now a geezer, I completed my BS in 1966, when computers were primitive. Later I completed an MS and a PhD in other subjects. I don’t remember lectures in a totally negative way. In a challenging subject such as math or physics, the lecture conveyed the teacher’s attitude toward the subject. He showed by example the algebra skills that were needed, and the good humor with which he approached a complicated task. One or more math teachers would solve a homework problem without notes so that students could see the thought process.

    If important classroom experiences go beyond taking notes, then it would seem important to pay attention. I knew one fellow who worked his way through college working retail. He said he had to sell 3 sweaters to pay for one lecture, and he NEVER cut class.

  • CJ

    Well, at my school, everyone brings pens, pencils, and pads of paper to class. It’s really irritating…

    I’m sure there’s some legitimate reason for bringing them to class. Some people might actually take notes or something like that, but most people just sit there doodling in the margin or drawing comic book characters rather than participating in the class. Not only are they devaluing their own education by not paying attention to the lecture, they’re distracting everyone else around them as well because it’s impossible to not want to see which character gets blown up next or how many petals they can squeeze onto one flower. Believe me, that’s *way* more interesting/distracting than what some dude is writing on his girlfriend’s facebook wall.

    If you ask me, there should be a universal ban on pens, pencils, and pads of paper and force people to use their laptops if they need to take notes in class.

  • zero

    I enter this discussion biased; I can type at 100 WPM tirelessly, whereas my hand gets sore trying to write half as fast. With equation editor in Open Office, I can even get down math equations just as quickly.

    Anyway, simple solutions:

    1) have students with laptops sit towards the back of the room or in a designated laptop area if they’re distracting other students

    2) have students submit a copy of their typed notes to the professor to prove they’re paying attention (I did this in high school a few times)

    3) have the professor prepare a lecture that’s actually engaging and interesting enough that the students WANT to pay attention

    An outright ban, I think fails to address the root problem. Students will work on other class work with books, play games on their phones, and text each other if they don’t want to pay attention. Banning laptops only punishes those who DO use them for productive reasons.

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  • Ada

    To the people suggesting those who are distracted by the laptops of others simply sit in the front row, sometimes this is not an option because the front row is already taken. I recall a lecture where I sat in the second row. The gentleman in front of me brought up the lecture notes, but soon switched over to some sort of Flash-based video game. I wished I could have sat in the front row instead, but all the seats were taken. Though I tried to avoid sitting so close to this student again, similar instances have happened in other classes with other students.

    One of my instructors politely asked that anyone using their laptop for games, watching sports, visiting social networking sites or whatnot please sit towards the back of the room. Fortunately the students complied. There were outlets back there after all.

    However, sometimes students don’t want to be seen as someone not paying attention. In the case I mentioned in my first paragraph, the student did raise his hand with gusto to answer a (gimme) question once. I think he wanted to appear more engaged than he was.

  • Laurel

    I give my students a piece of advice and a rule. The advice is, turn off your wireless access while you’re in the class, because even if you have every intention of taking notes and paying attention, it’s easy to find yourself mindlessly checking your email, answering a friend on chat, surfing YouTube because it’s all right there and available. Turning off the wireless access for the duration of the class will help them focus.

    The rule is, if you are using a laptop in class you have to sit in the back two rows to avoid distracting the other students. Even if you are religiously taking notes, the noise of typing is still fairly loud.

  • TonyW

    I don’t give lectures anymore – it’s not really an effective way for students to learn, even if they don’t have an open laptop. All of my graduate-level classes are small – under 25 students – and discussion-based. The students who use their laptops in class rarely participate in the discussions, often because they are doing something unrelated to the topic at hand. Their mental and physical absence from the discussion means that they don’t learn from their peers (or me), don’t contribute their own knowledge to others, and don’t get their own questions answered. It seems to me that they are not getting full value for their tuition dollars, but they are adults and that is the choice that they have made. I only ask them to put away their laptops as a sign of respect when we have a guest speaker.

  • Doug Groothuis

    From years of trying to fight the misuse of laptops in the classroom, I have banned them from my classes at Denver Seminary. I state this policy very clearly (and with an apologetic for it) in my syllabus. I also wrote an article on this in The Teaching Professor, “Banning Laptops From the Classroom.”

  • Doug Groothuis

    Here is my exact statement from my syllabus:

    No laptops are allowed in the classroom. While many students will use them responsibly, sadly my experience shows that many will not use them wisely, and will, instead, use them to surf the Internet—checking emails, etc., even watching films. For this reason, I am banning them from the classroom. The classroom needs to be zone for knowledge and inspiration. Knowledge needs students and students need knowledge. We need to breath ideas together without the distraction of alien mediation (cell phones, laptops, and so on). Therefore, please print out the class notes for the day (given through the web page by email) and be ready to take notes and discuss the material face-to-face, voice-to-voice, soul-to-soul. Many students disappear behind the screens. Please give me—better, offer up before God—the class time each week for discussion, debate, and dialogue.

  • M

    No laptops are allowed in my classroom either, but I don’t feel the need to explain why or apologize to my students. Why don’t I allow laptops? Simple: because I say so. Because it’s my classroom. Because it’s MY work environment, and since I’m in charge, I get to set the terms and conditions. The students’ personal choices don’t matter to me–and they can always make the personal choice to not take my class. The end. Seriously, why do people feel the need to justify their own classroom policies? Sure, someday students will be off in cubicle land where mouse-clicking is ubiquitous. But today is not that day, and I don’t run an office, but a classroom. And moreover, maybe we should get them acclimated to the “real world” by introducing them to rule #1 of working a big-boy/big-girl job: sometimes you have to do things that you don’t want to do in order to please your boss, like putting your laptop away.

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  • Omar Siddique

    Interesting, but if you’re that easily distracted, perhaps the fault is your own? I mean, I’m distracted by ugly people, or people who smell bad, or the hot chick, or people chewing gum, or … Being able to focus is my problem, as long as I can hear/see the lecture.

    There are a lot of us who don’t like to handwrite, it’s totally asinine to expect that we record (if the professor allows it) or have to decipher inadequate notes later. Indeed, with online notes/slides/recordings available, perhaps following related topics on wikipedia is more useful than “taking notes”.

    Focus on fixing your end, rather than worrying about what other people do.

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  • Elicia

    I am employed full-time and I regularly work 40+ hours a week. I take a minimum of 9 credit hours a semester, including summer. The degree is the certification I need to ‘prove’ my knowledge and justify promotion. After 10 years in the work environment I can state without doubt that younger workers are expected to double their work load. As older employees retire they are not being replaced; instead management distributes their work to others. In the current economy a young worker must learn how to manage at least double what their predecessor did if they have any hope of flourishing.

    To that end an advanced education is intended to give students the knowledge and skills to thrive in the work environment. A lot of Professors have lost sight of the ‘skills’ portion of this goal. I personally pay to go to an institution that is technology friendly because it IS necessary in the current work environment. Despite this I have had a Professor tell me technology cannot be used in the classroom unless I can prove a disability. Proving technology more efficient in achieving the assignments held no sway. I was able to drop the class without losing any money because of the technology friendly institution but that is the only advantage in this type of situation.

    Denying the use of technology by those who understand it and how to use it effectively does not solve the problem. Holding everyone back to enable those unwilling or unable to keep up is grossly unfair to those who are obtaining an education to better themselves. Despite my prior knowledge of the material I pay attention in class and take notes because I realize there is much more I can learn and I will take advantage of that. After all I am investing a lot of money to that end.

    University/college is meant to weed out the inadequate and uncommitted. Technology does not make that distinction. If a student is determined not to pay attention then they won’t regardless of available technology. They must suffer the consequences of failed classes/inadequate grades, and future job loss due to bad habits.

    Professors who deny the use of technology in their classroom are losing out on the opportunity to share their knowledge with some of the brighter students. I don’t have time to waste and cannot afford to resort to older and slower (for me) methods of note taking in order to comply with a Professor’s bias. I have met many peers who feel the same. It is a shame to see so much knowledge passed by because of an inability by educational institutions to keep up with the evolving world.

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  • Laptops

    there are pros and cons of having laptops allowed inside the classroom, but i guess laptops should not be allowed inside. it is going to be more of a distraction to the students.

  • Fakhi Khan143

    Definitely cool desgin of one’s website. It can be individual and compares to your posts. Don?t give up and make your personal point!

  • Mkdmsn

    Our university is looking into whether laptops should be banned or allowed in the classroom. Any other comments?

  • Online Degrees
  • shannon

    Thats preetty innapropriat and even if it was why would u watch it?

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  • Louise Brown

    Hi there – are you in Canada, by chance? I’m a journalist who’s looking into the idea of profs banning laptops. Would love to chat about the reaction, once you did.
    Louise Brown, Education Reporter, Toronto Star 416-869-4306 

  • A_Student

    So you need a laptop/computer to access the notes but you are not allowed to bring it into class? Because printing out copious amounts of notes all semester is cheaper and more eco-friendly? I find that a tad hypocritical. We’ve advanced so far with our technology and instead of utilizing it in the classroom, teachers outlaw it because its easier for them. Regardless if you have a pen and paper or a laptop, if you do not want to pay attention, you won’t. Students are responsible for themselves and their own grades.

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  • Chip Ahoy

    Here’s a wild idea: The students are the ones who pay thousands in exorbitant fees every year to pay for these professors to provide them with lectures, correct? Each domestic student pays the same price, and international students all pay the same price as each other, correct? Therefore, no one should have any say on whether any individual student can use the laptop they paid for to take notes for the lecture they are paying to attend, except for the student who is paying to attend that lecture. Professors salaries are paid for by the students, not vice versa. If there is any student who feels they should be allowed to use their laptop to take notes, than the prof should accommodate that student, regardless of a learning disability. If I feel my ability to learn is being affected, than it is. I think our thousands in tuition should grant us that much, at least. If the prof wants to send a TA to the back of the room to monitor internet usage and whatnot, so be it, but no professor should be risking any individual student’s success on the unfounded opinion that it will benefit the group as a whole, this is a classroom, not a socialist regime. As someone else has already mentioned, pen and pencil can be just as distracting for most of the same reasons, it all depends on the individual. Seeing as how it’s the individuals who fund this entire academic charade, I’d say the decision should lie with them.

    I personally take it up with my faculty any time a professor attempts one of these ridiculous bans, I know how I learn best and it isn’t with handwritten notes (which generally are incomplete, and a jumbled mess that is hard to review, compared to the complete, and easily reformatted typed notes on a laptop), and I spend far too much money to have my education compromised by a stubborn and outdated professor who lives off of my tuition fees. If the minority of students who are heavily distracted by others’ laptops have that much trouble staying focused, there is always plenty of room at the front of the lecture hall (hell if the prof is that concerned, they could reserve the front rows for handwritten note-takers). I’ve never seen a class where the front seats were entirely taken, and some of my lectures had over 300 students. This sounds like a professor problem, not a student problem. Whose education is it?

  • Chip Ahoy

    Sign me up for your lectures, please! This is exactly how college/university should work.