In a change from the time when colleges vied to be the most wired campus and recently the most wireless campus in the nation, professors and colleges are kicking laptops out of their classrooms. Slate’s The Big Money reports on the trend of banning laptops; calling attention to the University of Chicago Law School’s decision to cut Internet access in classrooms and the more dramatic laptop dipped in nitrogen at the University of Oklahoma, shown below.
Why are campuses asking, or sometimes telling, students to ditch the laptop for a legal pad? Most often the professors and universities cite the lack of class discussion or attentiveness of students who have access to all of the Web’s distractions. Others cite lower grades from laptop users and a lack of actual thought by students who type exactly what their professor says. Whatever the reason given, the trend is growing and this isn’t good news for students who will be relying on these digital devices for the rest of their working life.
Slate argues that the iPad will make the problem even worse because students can claim that they are using the device to read digital textbooks; making it harder for professors and universities to institute a ban.
As a professor I have to admit that staring out into a sea of screens is a much different experience than making eye contact with 35 students, but I welcome this new technology into my class. Yes, students have access to a wealth of distractions — but they also have access to a wealth of relevant information that, in my experience, aids class discussions.
I wish the university I teach at would give every student an iPad, like Seton Hill is doing this fall; because in my experience, students who use the tablet or slate are easier to engage because there is no screen between us. Even with the screen between us having a small affect, I couldn’t imagine getting through advanced undergrad courses without the help of OneNote and a laptop. I only wish I had Evernote and my HP tx2000 tablet with me then as the combo proved essential while finishing my MBA.
I see the entrance of new technology like iPads, notebooks and smartphones into my classroom not as a problem to be banned, but as a challenge to think about how I can engage a group of students using the devices that are a part of their daily life. After all, I am preparing them for their future in a workforce where these constantly connected devices will be their constant companions.