The laptop cops?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

March 5, 2008 Ed Cartoon

Some professors at King’s University College have expressed concern over the distractions caused in the classroom by laptop computers.

A couple of King’s instructors have suggested banning laptops from the classroom or at the very least banning wireless Internet access.

The Richard Ivey School of Business has a strict policy when it comes to Internet use; Ivey instructors control students’ Internet access during classes, not permitting them to log in during class time.

In seminar classes, professors know more often than not when students are fooling around on their laptops instead of being engaged in lecture. As such, they should be more assertive in letting their feelings be known on laptop use in the classroom. Students pay to listen to an instructor’s expertise and insight on a topic; faculty members have earned the authority to speak up and not let distractions occur in class.

While many professors meekly put up with their students being zoned out on the Internet instead of absorbed in course material, others will be more vigilant. Some stroll the aisles of the classroom to ensure proper Internet content is used, and some instructors of smaller classes will ask laptops be put aside to maintain focus on discussion.

Ideally, students ought to act like adults and have respect for the learning process " not only tuning in for their own benefit, but to avoid distracting others. However, some students are prone to a short attention span, and a laptop with Internet access serves as the ultimate distraction.

Constantly checking email, Facebook and YouTube during lecture also feeds an addiction to the Internet, which is growing more common with the Internet’s huge scope over the last couple years.

Regardless, a laptop can be a multitasking instrument in an academic setting. Students can look up related content and secondary sources while an instructor delivers a lecture.

Also, university students quickly tend to learn the consequences of their actions. If one spends class time checking video clips and bar pictures instead of taking notes, they will experience the repercussions come exam time.

In an environment where students are permitted to choose how they learn (if they choose to learn at all), the potential for laptop abuse should not outweigh the potential for aid.

While it is inconsiderate for some students to distract the more eager learners, the fact is distractions are common everywhere. One strategy people must learn to ensure productivity is how to tune out annoyances and sharpen focus.

Hence, while some are bound to abuse the privilege of taking an Internet-equipped computer to class, that should not ruin other students’ ability to use a laptop properly, even if others get by with a pen and paper.

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