There has quite a bit of commentary lately about the issue of whether students should use laptops in the classroom. On the one hand, some students do benefit from typing their notes. At the same time, having a laptop hooked to the Internet is a major distractor for at least some students. The temptation to do a little Facebooking, check a few e-mails, or chat on IM can be too much to resist for some students. The second problem is that other students often find it really distracting if a student in front of them is using the computer for non-classroom related activities. Some professors have forbidden laptops altogether. All of this leads to the question of whether there is a sensible compromise. If you have a good policy on this, please let us know. Here are some suggestions that we have heard:
- Tell students that they are NOT allowed to use laptops in the classrom, without permission from the instructor.
- If they do wish to use a laptop, they should request individual permission (either in person or by signing a form), and at that time they will be asked to promise to disable the wireless on their computer during class.
- Some professors ask those who wish to use wireless to sit in the front of the class, and indeed, we have noticed that the most aggressive abusers often choose to sit in the back of the class.
- Some professors walk away from the podium into the class, which makes it possible to visually inspect what is actually on those screens (especially if the students are sitting in the front of the class).
Again, please let us know if you have suggestions of your own.
Author: John Immerwahr
Update: June 10, 2010