Staff editorial: Laptops become major distraction

Laptops in college classrooms are no longer just educational tools. Instead of seeing students’ faces during class, professors have become well-acquainted with the backs of open laptops and have quickly figured out what students actually use their laptops for in class.

Thanks to wireless Internet across the UM campus, students are updating their Facebook and Twitter statuses, chatting on iChat and Gchat, browsing StumbleUpon and catching up on the latest celebrity news during class.

As college students, we can’t help but get easily distracted. Even when someone walks into class late, we lose our focus and glance immediately to see who it is. With a lecture hall full of laptops and the sound of obnoxious key-clicking, you can only imagine how many students are actually paying attention.

Unfortunately, the distraction isn’t only through chatting and Web surfing. Those who choose to misuse their laptops can distract those students without laptops.

Have you ever been in a class where an annoying guy in front of you watched YouTube during the entire lecture, and you wished the professor did something about it? We can all agree that it’s frustrating. Students watching movies, Facebook chatting with multiple people, and playing random games like Tetris during class will inevitably draw attention from those who surround them.

With all this in mind, laptops can be a serious distraction and it’s understandable why no-laptop policies are implemented to help students in the long-run. But what about the students who actually use their computer productively during class? Why is it that those who misuse their laptops ruin it for others who seriously want to take notes? Certainly there is a difference between those who need a laptop to get through class and those who benefit from the laptop learning style. Someone who prefers typing notes instead of manual note-taking shouldn’t have that privilege taken away because of another student’s misuse of a laptop.

Additionally, for classes that require readings that are available online and on Blackboard, no-laptop policies can be an inconvenience when those assignments become unreachable without a laptop.

Using a laptop in class should not be banned, but should be used responsibly. Although it is our prerogative to pay attention in class, it isn’t fair to distract and bother others who are actually trying to learn.

If you want to fool around on your computer to make class fly by, why not do everyone a favor and sit in the back of the classroom?

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

February 2, 2011


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

4 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Staff editorial: Laptops become major distraction”

  1. Bill Vilberg says:

    Great editorial. You have identified the dilema nicely: a changing computer screen draws the attention of anyone within sight of it, distracting those people from the classroom activities. Asking the people watching YouTube and such to move to the back is good, but I am not sure it will work. Isn’t it like branding them as present physically but not mentally if they are in the back row with a computer? What other solutions are there? Do the iClickers work if used throughout class to keep people engaged, so they don’t drift off into the internet? If the class is just a lecture, would it be better to have a recording of the lecture on-line so you could watch it at your convenience and then use learning activities in the classroom to help you practice, retain, analyze the material? (See http://khanacademy.org/ for examples of math, science, and finance screen casts that do a better job of teaching skills and techniques than can be accomplished in a lecture hall.) I don’t think this is a simple problem with one simple solution. But I think there are some excellent things that can be used to increase engagement in the classroom and help students keep from drifting into the matrix.

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published in print every Tuesday.