The hype about laptops

Posted on October 04, 2010 in Our Opinion
By USM Free Press

For some students, laptops are an integral part of classroom experience, others find them to be distracting. Some professors allow students to use laptops in class, others forbid it. A committee in the faculty senate is currently drafting a policy on laptop use in classrooms. Possible solutions that are on the table include: blocking Wi-Fi on a temporary basis in classrooms, creating a collective classroom policy which would not allow students to use laptops in class and making laptop misuse a violation of the honor code. We feel that students who use laptop to aid their learning should not be punished because of those who use laptops as a tool for distraction.

The reasoning behind the proposal is that surfing the Web in class impedes student success in the long run, and is distracting to the instructor and other students. If laptops are removed, students will find another way to distract themselves or they might simply stop going to class and therefore the cycle of unmotivated, distracted students will continue to exist. The larger question is: Why are students so cavalier about their education — especially considering the cost of tuition and fees at USM?

Our generation is captivated with electronics, and for many of us, it’s helpful to use laptops in class for organized note-taking. Professors often speak quickly. Students tend to type faster than they can write, enabling them to get most of the lecture down, which is helpful when it comes time to study for a test.

Limiting laptop use could be a hindrance to those students who have become accustomed to taking fast, accurate notes on their computers. Those who really benefit from laptops in class shouldn’t be punished because of the few that use class time for Facebook or solitaire.

Professors should be able to make their own rules about laptop use, as the nature of each class is different. Those who believe laptops are detrimental to lectures and class discussions should make it their own policy and ask students not to use them in class. In our experience, students generally obey rules laid out by professors.

We also question the feasibility and cost effectiveness of deactivating Wi-Fi within individual classrooms.

We encourage the faculty senate to use their discretion as they address this matter in their upcoming meetings. We are in accord with those professors who feel that texting, social networking and Web surfing in class is disrespectful and we realize their frustration. But we urge them to focus on the serious students, as those are whose interest they should consider most importantly in reaching an ultimate decision.

We agree that the use of personal electronic devices in the classroom has both benefits and drawbacks, but it is our opinion that the good, in this case, outweighs the bad.