Interesting food for thought. I definitely think there is a place for the use of laptops, but also we need to have deep conversations about whether every single moment in class a student should be perched behind a screen.
Why I’m Asking You Not to Use Laptops by Anne Curzan in The Chronicle of Higher Education
At a teaching workshop last week, a new faculty member asked me how I felt about students using laptops in the classroom. I replied, “I ask students not to use laptops in my classroom—unless a student tells me they need or strongly prefer a laptop to take notes (for any reason), in which case we make that work.” She looked relieved to have this endorsement of a learning zone with fewer electronic distractions.
I am far from alone in asking students not to use laptops (or phones) in class. Some of my colleagues, though, seem surprised that I don’t get pushback from students about this policy. I like to think it has something to do with my taking the time to explain my laptop policy for the class and then working hard to keep up my end of the contract.
Let me explain.
On the first day of class, students and I spend the first 30-40 minutes learning something new about how language works (in order to set the tone for the class), and then we go over the syllabus. When we get to the laptop policy, I pause and say, “Let me tell you why I ask you generally not to use laptops in class.” And here’s the gist of what I say after that:
First, if you have your laptop open, it is almost impossible not to check email or briefly surf the Internet, even if you don’t mean to or have told yourself that you won’t. I have the same impulse if I have my laptop open in a meeting. The problem is that studies indicate that this kind of multitasking impairs learning; once we are on email/the web, we are no longer paying very good attention to what is happening in class. (And there is no evidence I know of that “practice” at doing this kind of multitasking is going to make you better at it!)
Now I know that one could argue that it is your choice about whether you want to use this hour and 20 minutes to engage actively with the material at hand, or whether you would like to multitask. You’re not bothering anyone (one could argue) as you quietly do your email or check Facebook. Here’s the problem with that theory: From what we can tell, you are actually damaging the learning environment for others, even if you’re being quiet about it. A study published in 2013 found that not only did the multitasking student in a classroom do worse on a postclass test on the material, so did the peers who could see the computer. In other words, the off-task laptop use distracted not just the laptop user but also the group of students behind the laptop user. (And I get it, believe me. I was once in a lecture where the woman in front of me was shoe shopping, and I found myself thinking at one point, “No, not the pink ones!” I don’t remember all that much else about the lecture.)
Read it all HERE at the Chronicle of Higher Education