Laptops in the classroom

On Monday, Al Tompkins from Poynter blogged about the use of laptops in the college classroom.  He said some professors are tired of trying to compete with Facebook and other online distractions so they have banned laptops in their classrooms.

As someone who has taught a few classes at the collegiate level, this got my attention and got me thinking.  I have had students bring their laptops to class.  And I haven’t minded.  Are they always paying attention to me?  Probably not.  Do they need a laptop to distract them?  Certainly not.

In teaching a general studies English course at a local community college a couple of years ago, I had one student basically tell on another in an in-class writing assignment.  He wrote about how his classmate was surfing the Internet looking at skateboarding items during class.  I have to say, though, I didn’t much care.

The thing is, students don’t have to be in college.  They are choosing to be there.  And they are paying to be there.  Maybe it is because I have always been adjunct faculty and never on a tenure track, but I don’t feel responsible to make them learn.  I do, however, feel responsible to be prepared and do the best job I can to help them learn.  I love what I teach.  I love writing and researching.  I want to share that with students.

I must say in teaching at my alma mater, I’ve had more luck.  At Ball State University, I have taught journalism classes to journalism majors.  These students are in these classes because they want to pursue a career in the field.  They are more interested.  I still allow laptops.  And we work on computers.  Do I think that even in those classes no student with a laptop has ever wandered online for personal use during class lecture?  No.  I am realistic.

But, honestly, I think that hand-holding is not what should take place at the college level.  Banning laptops in the classroom doesn’t seem to be a solution to me.  It hinders students who can use them to more effectively take notes.  Responsible students will use laptops in a responsible manner.  Irresponsible students will only find other ways to distract themselves if they don’t have their laptop.

What do you think?

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