Should laptops be allowed in classrooms?
As Bob Dylan once said, “The times they are a-changin’.” Few truer statements have been spoken. With the continued advancements in technology, changes are constant. Laptops are becoming a huge part of student life because they have many positive uses in the classroom.
Note taking is a crucial part of many college courses, so it makes sense that many of the advantages of using laptops in class are geared toward taking notes. Many students are much faster at typing than they are at writing by hand. This helps if a professor rushes through material to make sure he or she covers everything needed in the limited time.
Further, typed notes are actually legible. I have terrible handwriting, especially when I have to scribble at supersonic speeds in attempt to keep up with a lecture. I cannot stress enough the importance of having legible notes. Can you imagine actually taking the time to study and then realizing that you cannot prepare for the big exam because you have no idea what it is you were writing about?
Sharing notes is also much simpler when they are in a Word document as opposed to in a notebook. It is easier to send an email containing the missed notes than it is to meet and give someone your notebook and depend on them returning it, so you can continue to keep your notes in order.
Keeping notes organized is also rather painless on a laptop. When typing, you can always add more to a previous section and change the organization of your notes to be chronological and easier to follow.
Additionally, when you handwrite your notes, you cannot make changes unless you take them in pencil, and even then you can never fully erase anything. Besides, no one takes notes in pencil anymore. Everything is in pen, and crossing things out does not always increase the aesthetic value of the notes that you will, hopefully, look at again while studying.
Laptops are also great tools to assist in a student’s understanding of a course. Maybe a professor cites some term, event or process that you have never heard before. You can look it up on the Internet, find an answer and actually learn what the professor expected you to already know.
Having access to the Internet allows you to do even further research on a topic brought up in class the moment it is mentioned. You can participate and actively try to learn at the same time. Is that not what a professor would want his or her students to do?
Technology is changing our world whether we like it or not. We can either embrace this change as improvement or oppose it with a yearning for the past when life seemed simpler, but there is no lasting way to avoid change. We have to embrace technology in the classrooms to keep up with the times as they are “a-changin’.”
Technology is the driving force in our society today, so it only seems natural that it would serve as a large factor in our classroom atmosphere. Stop for a moment and observe any classroom, and you will see at least a few faces illuminated by laptop screens. While there are many benefits to this technology being available in our classes, there are multiple problems that go with it.
The biggest problem in my opinion would be what I consider the “back of the class” mentality. When you stop to observe the number of laptops in a class, you may take care to note a decent portion of the students using them reside in the back of the class. The idea behind that is that they won’t distract others behind them with their computer screens.
However, speaking from personal experience as well as accounts from friends, this only serves to alienate some (not all) of these students from the class even more. They become more enthralled with Facebook, Twitter and other social media that they can now freely use without the worry of others seeing. They become less connected with what the professor is saying, sometimes to the point that they can barely tell you what was said in class.
While other students may be relieved of viewing screens of the back row residents, they are not free from distraction.
The second issue with laptop use in classrooms is the volume of the classroom due to the incessant clicking of the keyboard. Many people find it hard to concentrate and keep a steady train of thought with the sounds of the keyboard derailing them. No matter where you are sitting in the room, there is no doubt that everyone can hear the typing.
Even the few, the proud, the studious, who actually sit in the front row with their computer and truly take notes, can still be distracting to others. Because, let’s be honest, when you’re already bored in class, sometimes just watching what someone else is typing can be more interesting that what the teacher is actually saying.
Laptops are not the only technological distraction that has not-so-quietly crept into our classes, albeit they are the most noticeable. Cell phones are perhaps even more of a distraction, and they are rightfully more disliked by professors. Oddly enough, part of the reason they can be so distracting is because of their semi-taboo status. Students have to hide their cellular use due to professor preference, and so when someone does sneak a text, everyone notices.
Now the question is not whether to allow these devices or not. Personally, I love using them, and in our society technology is now a way of life, virtually impossible to stifle. Rather, the question should be whether the use of these devices is conducive to a tech-friendly learning environment and more productivity.