Laptops in the class: are they really helpful?

I have recently attended a lecture on ME 4006 as a GTA where the instructor asked the students to put their laptops aside or in tablet mode. This drew my attention and made me think if this was the right thing to do.

There are different styles or methods for lecturing a class. Some faculty member use writing on the board or on a piece of paper that is shown by a projector. On the other hand, some others prefer presenting slides and lecturing over them. The first method keeps the students busy in the class unless the notes are recorded and posted. It forces the students taking notes in the class. In this case, students may use their laptops in tablet mode and write on it. Here, it seems like laptops are very useful to them. But the disadvantage of this method is that it is hard to fathom the lectures materials while taking notes. Many students struggle at this. However, the second method has the advantage in terms of paying attention to the lectures as they are not required to take notes. Some people like to open the lectures on their laptops and take essential notes on it. But not all the students are attentive like this. Many of them get sidetracked by the distracting features by the laptops such as gaming, social networking, chatting and checking emails. The problems become severe when they watch or do something that hampers other students’ attention or the class environment. May be this was the reason why the instructor did not allow the students to use their laptops except in tablet mode or may be the instructor wanted them to be very attentive to the class or may be at least not to disturb others by any chance.

To make laptops useful in the class, faculties need to make their class technology interactive. They need to know how to embed learning materials in technologies to make it engaging for the students growing with technologies.

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