One of the things I enjoy most about college classes is the ability to use my laptop during class (professor permission granted, of course), but I have noticed permissible laptop use has dwindled over my past three years in undergraduate education.
Although I agree using a laptop in class can be a distraction and incredibly tempting since Facebook, Twitter, and AOL Instant Messenger are readily accessible, I feel that as individuals who are at least 18-years-old, students should be able to decide whether they can trust themselves to use a laptop in class. Why should it be up to the professor to decide whether his or her students can bring their laptops? Prohibiting them off the bat seems to be an automatic distrust of how students will use their laptops, which does not seem fair to me.
I have had professors who allow laptops but explicitly state that if they think students are using laptops for purposes other than academic, that privilege will be taken away. I feel that is a better way to approach the laptop situation rather than assuming a student will spend their time perusing Facebook or tweeting how bored they are during Professor So-and-So’s lecture.
Furthermore, I have always said, when debating this topic, that if a student uses his or her laptop in class and does well, then using the laptop should not be seen as a detriment to the learning experience. It is the student who uses his or her laptop but does poorly on tests, homework assignments, and in-class participation, that should not have the privilege of using electronic devices during class.
Laptops have all sorts of good contributions to the learning experience. For example, one can take notes on their laptop rather than having to carry around a bulky notebook and laptop for each of their classes. Many of my professors also use Blackboard to post required readings for each class, or they e-mail a required reading assignment. Since they are saving paper by scanning what needs to be read and posting it online, why shouldn’t we be able to save paper by bringing our laptop to class so that we can refer to the reading, rather than having to print out a 20-to-30-page article?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating laptops in all classes. I find it hard to believe someone could provide a good argument for using a laptop to solve a differential equation in calculus or create a truth table for logic class. However, if it’s feasible to use a laptop for a particular course, then it should be up to the student to decide if they can be trusted to use it. If they want to pay thousands of dollars to use a laptop and not pay attention in class, that’s their choice.
And the wisdom of that choice will be reflected at the end of the semester when they receive their final grades.