Using laptops in class: pros & cons

It is OK to bring a laptop to the lecture? Nowadays, the question concerning the usage of laptops in the university should be posed rather differently: what we should do with the laptops that have already flooded our classrooms?

As Dan Rockmore [http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/the-case-for-banning-laptops-in-the-classroom] writes in his article in “The New Yorker”, today’s university can be considered as “the progeny of an ill-conceived union of twenty-first-century tools (computers, tablets, smartphones) with nineteenth-century modalities (lectures)”. The important question is whether teachers and lecturers are able to do anything to mitigate the consequences of this “ill-conceived union”?

On the one hand, some research show that using computer in the classroom can be harmful for the whole enviroment. The user is not focused on the lecture because he or she at the same time tries to listen, write an e-mail, make notes and comment on a friend’s picture on facebook. It also distracts other students, who rather prefer observe the actions of a laptop-using colleague than to pay attention to the lecturer’s talk. Last but not least, the teacher’s concentration is also harmed due to lack of eye-contact with the students and general distraction among them.

The other side claims that notebooks were not always used only for making important notes: after all, their margins have always been full of doodles and written chats. Another crucial argument is that students use a computer because it allows making notes quicker and do the fact-checking while listening. We can also  encounter the opinion saying that nothing really has changed because of the laptop’s presence in the classroom. Dennis Baron [link:http://illinois.edu/blog/view/25/87314] even wrote that “pretending to pay attention is one of the most valuable skills I learned as a student” and laptop is just an another version of reading adventure novels hidden behind bigger textbook’s cover.

Although the idea to ban laptops in the classroom finds probably a considerable group of supporters (often equipped with forceful arguments), more than a solution it seems like throwing baby out with the bathwater. The complete prohibition should be considered like the teacher’s defeat rather than the prolific solution. The important thing is to realize that laptop won’t disappear from our classrooms so we have no choice but to agree that less restrictive solutions have to be worked out.

At first, teachers should clearly define their attitude toward the in-class laptop usage. It is important to do it at the very begining of the semester, and it should assume the shape of an ethical contract. It is also possible to reorganize the class in order to create a separate area for laptop-users. Another solution is to ask the students not to use their computers for a moment when something that recquire special attention is being explained.

The problem is still open and it certainly demands a wider discussion. For further information please visit: http://teachingcenter.wustl.edu/Journal/Reviews/Pages/Research-In-Class-Devices.aspx#.VFoMvxZZ1dh

Edited by Jacub Misun and Patrycja Bakowska 

2 thoughts on “Using laptops in class: pros & cons

  1. Laptops are good for taking notes and they are very portable. When teacher says something which have left a bit vague into the mind, it’s quick to Google to find understanding of thing that was missed. In my opinion laptops are rather necessary because teacher don’t have time to explain all things required and most of the work are done independently, teacher just grades.
    Also notes done during class can be put into smartphone and that way easier to read in train/buss.
    This is at least what I do and I found this as really good solution.

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