…I’m not entirely sure what laptops are supposed to do in college classrooms.
Universities have stopped short of disabling Internet access entirely, which might create a raft of new complaints from professors who routinely ask students to go online in class.
“[R]outinely ask students to go online in class”? Really? For what? Isn’t the whole point of college supposed to be that professors provide students knowledge that they can’t get for free by just going to a library and reading books?
Now I see that a blogger at Inside Higher Ed is defending laptops from such bans, and all I can do is ask, “Is that all you got?” I’ll tackle his uses for laptops in classrooms in the order he provides them:
“a. For instant team research and authoring assignments.”
Um…research isn’t really research if it’s instant. And what’s the matter with pens and paper for authoring assignments? More importantly, how many assignments are done in class during lecture courses? That’s why there’s homework, which they are welcome to do on their laptop any time they like.
b. To provide real time feedback for student presentations, lectures or guest lectures.
Isn’t that why we have Clickers? Seriously, is this a class or a focus group that we’re talking about here?
c. For in-class blogging about the subject matter you discussed.
I happen to love blogging, and I do indeed use blogs as an educational tool in one of my classes, but assigning it during class time strikes me as something only a secondary school teacher with lots of time to kill would do. After all, I have 120-odd years of history to get through in my large lecture class in 14 weeks, teaching 3 hours per week. Every moment that students are using their laptops is a moment that I am not teaching them history. To me, that’s dereliction of duty.
All that said, I actually do allow laptops in my classroom under certain conditions, based on an article I found while writing this very blog: Everyone taking notes on a laptop has to sit in the front row so that I can keep an eye on them. [I walk while lecturing, so they never know when I’m going to turn up the aisle and can see what’s on their screen.] It seems to be working well so far.
Now if I could just figure out exactly what to do about cell phones.