Professors should rethink ‘no laptop’ policy

By on October 27, 2010

I could not wait to take my laptop to college and type out my papers at my leisure–when and where I wanted. But more importantly, I wanted to use it for taking notes during class. One would think students in college, laptop always at the ready, could take notes efficiently.

I have always struggled taking notes in class. I understood my teachers during lectures–I just couldn’t write as fast as they spoke. And after asking many students on campus, they said they experienced the same issue. Lectures can be rushed in 50-minute classes.

Another issue I have, surely along with many other students, is poor handwriting skills. Having bad handwriting is hard enough when you have time to write something out, and then barely are able to read it the next day.

But rushing to take notes at the pace expected can leave some students with words where only a few letters in each word are legible. If the notes are illegible, how are you able to study for a test?

Typing my notes make them clearer, eliminates eraser marks, and includes a handy spell-checker. Generally the process of typing is much faster than writing by hand.

On the first day of each class, the professors handed out the course syllabus. Many of them had ‘no laptops’ written somewhere on the first page. When I read this, I was heartbroken. I questioned how professors could make a case for not allowing students to have computers in the classroom. But I understood — they know how students think, as they were in our position at one time. They know all about Facebook, Twitter and other distractions on the Internet.

But the Internet can have useful purposes as well. As much as educators loathe Wikipedia, it is a very useful resource when wanting to look up a quick fact. There are free dictionaries online to help students understand words they don’t know. And then there is the holy grail of educational resources, which we use here on campus: Blackboard. Many educators use Blackboard as a resource for students to post their work, eliminating the stack of however many 6-10 page papers they have to carry home with them. Professors here also use it to upload syllabi, assignments, and other useful information for students.

How many times have your professors asked you to get something off Blackboard?

During tests, it is understandable to forbid students to use laptops, as the temptation to cheat would only grow into a reality for some. However, during regular classes it is unreasonable to prohibit students from using their laptops because of the social aspect computers carry with them. Students who are here to learn would still pay attention in class, rather than goof around online. Those who choose to be delinquent are disrespectful to the professor and miss out on their educational experience. If students choose to throw away their tuition money by not paying attention in class, let them!

It is as if the Internet is what renders us unable to bring our laptops to class, and if that is the case, why even have a laptop?

Students should be allowed to use laptops during class, and face the consequences if they are not using them responsibly.

Comments

About Christine Little

One Comment

  1. Gary Pandolfi

    January 14, 2011 at 10:16 am

    I agree wholeheartedly.
    Since the university requires students to have a laptop, faculty should embrace its use.

    Now, I will say that if a student’s laptop use is distracting his peers, then the students should ask him or her to stop.
    If you are attending a concert and someone is talking or crunching wrappers next to you, spoiling your enjoyment of the show, you should say something. You don’t expect the performer to stop and ask people not to crinkle wrappers or talk during the show.

    Some students need to be educated about proper classroom etiquette. Taking away a laptop eliminates a learning opportunity.

    Faculty who are daunted by technology in the classroom should consult their instructional technologists to find ways to leverage technology to improve learning outcomes. Faculty needing suggestions or help incorporating technology to facilitate realization of learing outcomes should contact Academic Technology for a consultation. They may find that an small initial investment in course redesign could pay huge dividends in the long run.