Laptops in Class

Every time I attend class, I notice everyone’s different ways of multi-tasking. Some doodle, maybe to expend energy, some browse the internet looking for more information on (or fact checking) whatever we’re talking about, some work on other things while they listen, some shop–maybe akin to doodling, I check my e-mail and my text messages (gotta make sure work is moving along and there isn’t a baby crisis), some very-focused and at-peace individuals sit listening without engaging any other media/entertainment/focus outlet– I’m always in awe of this group, at least during our class it seems like they have achieved some kind of enlightenment.

I would not have thought to write about this subject until I ran across “Don’t Insult Your Class by Banning Laptops” in the opinion section of the Chronicle of Higher Education. In response to the idea that laptops and other forms of tech tend to distract from a lecture, Mathew Numer explains, ” I’ve studied the effects of technology on university students, and I have found that it not only improves learning, it increases my students’ critical thinking abilities.” I guess I can see how that might be true! Aren’t we more likely to think critically when we have an outlet for following down paths of thought or checking our theories and assumption in real time? And, that outlet is really needed when there isn’t time for everyone to engage in conversation. Numer suggests that students should be insulted by a ban on laptops in class– after all, we’re not children. And, he further suggests ways that laptops can help enhance the classroom, much of which we have experienced in our GRAD 5104 class. Thanks Abram. Thank Dean DePauw.

All in all, I tend to agree with Numer. Students have to learn how to manage themselves in class and if we ban laptops or other items (a long time ago, one of my professors tried to ban newspapers in class), how will they learn? By the time they are in grad school or a staff meeting, they will need to know how to stay engaged and will need a good understanding of how others perceive their use of technology during class or in a meeting.

4 thoughts on “Laptops in Class

  1. Kadie Britt says:

    I love this perspective! I also 100% agree. It seems like society pushes us to be multi-taskers, and so do professors when they assign us multiple tasks at once. We should be allowed to multi-task in class as well, especially in classes that last longer than one hour.

  2. Stephen says:

    So I think I have mixed feelings about this. I agree that in this day and age students are going to want to have access to some form of technology while they are working/learning. Most use it to take notes and research topics while class is going on. On the other hand, I think that in some cases students abuse this privilege. I’m specifically talking about undergraduate students on this part because I feel this is where most of this issue comes into play. Not saying that as grad students we are immune from that, but I would like to think that as grad students we are able to multi-task better in some ways.

  3. Keerthi says:

    Good blog. Just to add some more sight to it about how it is in India. In the college where I did my undergrad, all electronic media is strictly banned to be used during class hours. I guess its true for most of the colleges in India, where the education is quite different, as there are few or none assignments and homework. Most of our course-work is based on labs and exams and we mostly don’t need laptops to be with us. Finally, what I wanted to say is its the way of education that probes students to carry laptops and once they have it, its hard to avoid to open it in class.

  4. Interesting post. I agree that students should be allowed to work with their laptops during the class. I have seen many students (specially undergrads) who easily become distracted by their laptops and pay zero attention to the class, but I think at some point, we need to learn how to manage ourselves, and it will not be achieved by pushing.

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