A few weeks ago I was asked by a colleague how I typically handle the issue of laptops in the classroom. On the one hand, they can be a useful learning tool, and many students like to use them. It’s practically become a perceived necessity for student note-taking. On the other hand, laptops can be incredibly distracting in these days of internet addiction and omnipresent social media. I am not immune to the internet’s pull either, and find it difficult to imagine what it’s like to be a student with that constant distraction.
(I’m reminded of a time when I asked students how they would like to handle laptops and they asked me what happened in my classrooms when I was an undergrad. As I was a relatively young faculty member, they had assumed my classmates all had laptops too. To their shock and horror, I explained it wasn’t an issue because nobody had them back when I started undergrad… last century in 1999!)
Here’s my response to my colleague:
I have a laptop-free zone, after sharing this study by Sana, Weston, Cepeda: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131512002254. I am sure to emphasize the effects of the flickering screen on the people around them, and even ask people to raise their hands if they can see a particular student’s screen. It surprises some folks (especially those who tend to sit near the front, whose screens are in wide view). I explain my role is not to take away their freedoms, but to protect the classroom as a place of learning. If they’re hindering other people’s learning, that becomes my business.
I also discuss “The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard” http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797614524581 but encourage them to make that choice for themselves.
What do you think? How do you think laptops should be handled? What are the best solutions you’ve encountered?