Banish Laptops from Classrooms?

I am a professor and have recognized the distraction of having students in class with laptops (connected to the internet). It is somewhat disconcerting for all when I am discussing with my class the diagnostics of a Piel verb and a student is scrolling down his Facebook page. Is this a distraction for the teacher AND other students?  One prof reported that, “Ninety-five percent [of students] admitted that they had used their laptops for ‘purposes other than taking notes.'” If this is true, (for those few students who are reading this blog), should laptops be banned from the classroom or as one university has done: have the ability to shut down internet access in the classroom when it is not needed? See this Washington Post online article that deals with this issue and let me know what you think.

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8 comments on “Banish Laptops from Classrooms?

  1. Dan says:

    Two thought…

    1) If students don’t pay attention in class then they are idiots… Let them burn their money and fail. I would be reluctant to punish students who use their resources appropertly for the foolishness of those who abuse those same resources.

    2) I would often brows the web in conjunction with the topic in class. E.g. If Tom Williams was discussing declination in astronomy then I might look up the Wikipedia article on declination. If I was taking dispensationalism with Doctor Mike then maybe I would look up eschatology charts on Google images… : )

    Just my two cents…

    P.s. we need to handout… Its been awhile…

  2. Dave Durst says:

    What an interesting question! Technology has certainly done much to help scholarship. However, the “magic” of the classroom is the interaction between the teacher and student, which results in learning. This leaves little room for multitasking. Whether newspaper, comic books, passing notes, Facebook, etc., all are distractions. One wonders why students waste time and money to ignore the learning process.
    This raises the question of the importance of all the information online. Excuse the hyperbole, but much of the information available through Facebook, texting, email, blogs, etc., is an exercise in narcissism and an exchange of gossip. Does the world really need to know the details of my trip to the beach, or discuss the contents of baby’s diaper? Is this really as important as the information available in class?
    Technology is a tool, but it does not replace the use of one’s mind, including information stored there through learning. Someone with a basic knowledge of Greek or Hebrew can analyze the bibilcal text with their computer, but understanding, appreciating, and applying it are beyond the ability of any computer. A serious student should store the laptop during class.

  3. Ty says:

    All due respect to the previous post, but it’s an overly broad brush and misses the point of new media. There are serious conversations and interactions occuring through new media.

    I was a serious student, and used a laptop. Some classes, particularly language classes, I did not. It allowed me to be more focused.

    With a growing number of students struggling with ADHD tendancies, distraction is often the only way they can hear….and they can be extremely serious and insightful students.

    How a student learns determines how you teach them. A serious student does what it takes to learn. For me, my laptop was a significant asset not a hinderance.

    My two cents.

  4. Tom says:

    Is this a matter of distraction or respect? Is it disrespectful to the professor for a student to surf the web while the prof is teaching? Likewise, is it disrespectful for a student to text on his / her cell phone while in Sunday school or church? Or, is this just what should be expected from today’s students?

  5. Jason says:

    A few thoughts.

    I did use my laptop for purposes other than taking notes. On occasion, a connection would be made in my mind between the class discussion/lecture and something I had written or read recently. I would take the opportunity to quickly look that up on my computer.

    In the context of BBS, would it be enough for professors to simply request that students do not use the internet access during class for purposes that are not related to learning?

    At some point, we as a culture are going to have to learn to use technology well. Is it possible to encourage laptops to be used in manners which contributes to the learning process.

    As for students being distracted by other students playing a game in front of them, a student can always sit closer to the front of the class.

    At the end of the day, the professor or a university has the ‘right’ to ban laptops from the classroom, but I would encourage those with this power to consider their motivation for doing so and the possible implications of such actions. I believe that learning in a college setting takes place in the form of some sort of relationship between the professor and the learners (students). Will the banning of laptops contribute to the learning process? Even if the answer is yes, do not professors or universities have an obligation to explain there decision to those who are playing to attend the school, it’s students?

    Just a few thoughts.

  6. Ty says:

    I find it interesting how this questions has been raised around me multiple times. I also recently attended a conference on social media and its impact on church, work, etc. There are two key thoughts that jumped out at me:

    1) The need to know how to be “unplugged” (not connected to the internet.

    2) The radical nature of social media. This is today what the telephone was at the start of the 20th century.

    In the give & take of this discussion, students need to learn how to be unplugged. I found it ironic that many of the “experts” are actually reverting back ti simpler forms of technology. They dropped their smart phones for a more simple cell phone in order to be unplugged and not too attached to work, friends, etc. Man even set times when they completely shut down. The key reason is to be able to stay in the present.

    On the radical side of things, Millennials on down think differently. They (we) have a much truer ability to multitask than others before. In fact, making and seeking connections is a key to how they learn and function. There is no doubt a transition going on. Those in their upper 30’s don’t get it as much as those in the lower 30’s on down. While this way of operating may seem frustrating, the Millenials also have an appreciation for and expectations of mentoring that prior generations. We listen and appreciate more- though it may not look like it.

    A real give & take needs to happen. The respect card can be played, and for sure it can be distracting to teachers, but the problem will only grow with age. If every class is technology void, that would likely not be relevant to how students function. On the flip side etiquette, carefronting, and prudence need to be used and respected as some classes technology is a help, others (languages specifically) it is a hindrance. In some senses it is the same problem of the classroom. Many passed notes, read newspapers, or worked on other assignments while in another class.

    A few more thoughts.

  7. Jeff Straub says:

    If a student wants to pay hundreds of dollars an hour to sit in my class and surf the web or IM of Facebook, provided they do not disturb me or other students, they are free to do so. However, if they miss something important due to inattention, I will not feel obligated to impart information when they did not care to hear it the first time.

    Jeff Straub
    Professor of Historical Theology

  8. Randall Scotti says:

    I would suggest that, each position stated, thus far, emanates from “I.” This “I” (Me) has an opinion too, but, we already know the old adage about opinions…

    In a presumed attempt to be objective, some have intensified the issue by including morality, in order to boolster their claim. Is this valid? May I rush to the end and ask- Are we trying to “legislate morality?” Have we not yet learned this lesson on legalism? Is not OT legalism no different than, under a new term, 21st century Modernism?

    Others, have retreated into “I”- “You may do as you please, as shall I.” This claim carries the unfortunate tone of our Post Modern world. I would suggest that this is no different than Paul’s term- Mysticism.

    Solomon- “Nothing new under the sun.” Our terms have changed over the Millennia, but, nonetheless, perhaps fortunately, our errors remain the same; errors, which, I believe, reside in presuppositions.

    The identified problems- laptop use vs. distraction; paying attention vs. inattention; respect vs. disrespect; over 30 vs. under 30; ADD (ADHD) vs. discipline… I would suggest that each offered paradigm wrestles in the ongoing dilemma of rightly understanding Scripture concerning both Wisdom and Love. Honestly, let’s listen to ourselves for a moment, without employing our rationalizations, which typically begin with- He/ She, and always end with I…

    Scripture does not speak to laptops, nor to a host of other issues, not for want of, 2000+ years ago, writers being informed of- advancements in technology or, the human psyche. Rather, all questions have already been resolved, unless someone, herein, wants to claim- Scripture has become irrelevant. Therefore, our instant discussion is temporarily barred.

    In my humble understanding of Scripture, the shifting from the Modernist’s presupposition employed as Wisdom is not resolved in a re-skewing to the Post Modernist’s presupposition employed as Love. Restated, cognitive/ behavioral legalism, so often espoused as Wisdom, is no more valid than the alternative mystical approach, now derived as self-esteem centered Love.

    In the Book of Colossians, Paul utilizes ultimate terms, when he writes about both legalism and mysticism- two errors of presupposition. Paul was not deficient in pooling these two presuppositional errors as representatives. Nor, does Paul leave us hanging with these two errant presuppositions. Rather, I would suggest that Paul’s resolution is a third presupposition, the True Presupposition.

    Paul’s resolution (beginning at Col 1:13), as a presupposition, drives through both presuppositional errors. In his thesis, Paul delineates the True Presupposition, which sums up everything- all under Christ. In my humble understanding, Paul’s True Presupposition allows for all of us to- collectively, as united, arrive at- both Biblical Love and Wisdom.

    I would suggest that, our struggle with issue specifics, and/ or the Collectivist’s approach centered in man, creates- divisions, discord, gossip, envy, strife, et, al. As a corollary, the righteous derivatives, from Paul’s True Presupposition, are unity in both Love and Wisdom.

    Therefore, the resolution for our instant issue is resolved in the True Presupposition, which requires us to, first, equally arrive at said same True Presupposition. Thus, I would suggest that we return to Scripture, to Colossians, towards arriving together, at the True Presuppositon, as our foundation, for the remainder of our discussion.

    Your Fellow Brother,
    RS

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