That does it. I’m completely banning laptops from my lectures, unless I get a note from the folks on campus who deal with disabilities. From an interview with author Nicholas Carr in the Chronicle:
There’s a study called “The Laptop and the Lecture” that divided a class into two sets. One-half of the students could use their laptops in a classroom while listening to a lecture. They were free to surf the Web. And the other half had to keep their laptops closed. And then there was a test of comprehension. And the students who used their laptops scored significantly lower on the comprehension test for how well they could remember the content of the lecture. An interesting twist was that students who visited sites relevant to the content of the lecture actually did even worse on the test than students who browsed unrelated sites. It indicates that, even if you think that allowing students to look at other information relevant to what they’re being taught might enhance their learning, it actually appears to have the opposite effect.