The use of laptop computers in the classroom is a subject of mixed opinion. Fully equipped with note-taking software, word processors, e-books, Blackboard, Facebook, Twitter, iMessage, Youtube, iTunes, and much, much more, laptops can be very effective learning tools. Many University students take advantage of their typing speed to quickly take down notes, or they reference materials like Blackboard pages or eBooks during class. However, although they’re convenient, laptops in the classroom also present an inevitable distraction to the user. Laptops pose a threat to a student’s educational experience at the University, and the use of laptops in the classroom should be restricted.
Apps like Facebook, YouTube, iMessage, and Gmail are just as easily accessible as academic tools. It’s indisputably a detriment to a student’s education if the majority of lecture is spent on social media sites. Students may think that responding to a text mid-lecture isn’t much of an issue, but we must also consider the effects of doing so from the perspective of other students in the class. People sitting behind or around those who use their laptops inappropriately, or laptop “misusers,” also fall victim to the computer’s distracting effects. A simple glance at someone’s Twitter feed may reveal an article on why Donald Trump’s first vacation was so heavily criticized, which will undoubtedly shift a student’s focus from the lecture to something that, while interesting, can clearly wait until after class. One laptop user can unknowingly compromise the learning of dozens of students with a simple careless action.
Further, professors and preceptors may also become distracted by these laptop misusers. With the expectation of participation in a small classroom setting, a professor or preceptor may be discouraged to see up to 70 percent of the class deeply engaged not with the class material, but with their iMessages. For this reason, some professors have banned the use of laptops and cell phones, requiring students to take notes by hand — an often slower and, at times, less organized note-taking alternative. In these classes, attention must be given to the lecturer: the laptop users will not get off track and students within close proximity will not fall victim to the secondhand effects of laptop misuse. I’ve certainly been guilty of acts like responding to emails during class, and I fully understand the repercussions — for me, for those around me, and for the professor. However, the benefits of laptop use can’t be entirely ignored. In some ways, laptop use may even benefit the lecturer, allowing students to reference materials online and efficiently take notes — as mentioned in this column’s opening — allowing the lecturer to cover more material. Or, as in the case of one of my fall semester classes, the absence of “typing” sounds let the professor know that she could move to the next slide. In my opinion, these benefits are subtle, and they’re undoubtedly outweighed by the detriments presented earlier.
Personally, I believe the issue is a matter of perspective, but it’s the professor’s perspective that ultimately holds the authority. Professors who feel uncomfortable with laptop use in class have every right to restrict it. Students who sit in the very front of a lecture hall or classroom significantly reduce their chances of becoming distracted by secondhand effects of laptop misuse, and those who temporarily turn off their WiFi may not be tempted to scroll through Facebook during class. For those opposed to laptop use in the classroom, these prevention strategies may prove to be most successful in minimizing distraction and maximizing benefits.
Jared Shulkin is a freshman from Weston, Fla. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org