Laptops In The Classroom

“UNIVAC: a device, which contained 20,000 vacuum tubes, occupied 1,500 square feet and weighed 40 tons; there was also a laptop version weighing 27 tons.” -Dave Barry


Freakonomics linked to an article on the Yale Law School website discussing laptops in the classroom and I was reminded why this discussion is so annoying.The argument against laptops in the classroom is essentially that they are distracting to both the student using them as well as those around them. A lot of the evidence indicates that people are bad at multitasking. I’m not even going to disagree with that. If you’re IMing, playing on Facebook, whatever, while in class, you’re probably not paying much attention to the lecture.

Laptop bans, however, don’t make you pay attention. They just force you to be more creative. Daydreaming has long been a popular classroom activity. Cell phones, especially these days, provide just as many outlets as a laptop does. My personal favorite, the college newspaper crossword puzzle, was so popular in my undergrad that I had a few professors who tried to ban that.

I wish that professors spent more time making the classes not suck than trying to ban laptops and crossword puzzles. I can only speak to my personal experience, but I paid attention in classes that were interesting and well-taught. I didn’t in the classes that weren’t. And I took my laptop to all of them.

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