Against humanity as we know it……no laptops in my classroom!

https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/01/24/578437957/laptops-and-phones-in-the-classroom-yea-nay-or-a-third-way

I’ve been around long enough to understand why some students choose to take notes on a laptop (because it’s the only mechanism they’ve known) or, how recording lectures on a cellphone might help them remember what was said during a discussion; but, in my future classes I will not allow laptops nor cellphones to be present unless it is part of a syllabus activity.  There are a few reasons for this.  First, what I teach (regardless of the discipline area) must be communicated in a manner that is easily formatted for cognitive recollection.  Second, items that are not discussed in seminar will not be tested on mid-terms or final exams.  Third, class participation will be crucial for expanding discussion topics and creating new streams of colloquy.  Exceptions for this as mentioned are for syllabus activities which I could imagine would be three or four times a semester.

In the article linked above by NPR it discussed that 1/3 of a psychology course spent time surfing for non related classroom material.  My guess would be that this is a much higher percentage.   I don’t doubt many areas of education might require the use of a computer  on a daily basis but in my discipline it isn’t necessary so it would be considered a distraction.  If I can’t teach it which results in the student not remembering the material, then I’ve failed.  If I’ve taught it and the student can’t remember the material, then they’ve failed.  The middle ground here is understanding that there are multiple ways of teaching and learning.  As a professor I must be engaged daily with my students to understand where each one is on the learning path.  It is my responsibility to do so.

Thanks!

Cheers, Lehi

 

16 Comments

Filed under GEDISP2018

16 Responses to Against humanity as we know it……no laptops in my classroom!

  1. Kristin

    I can relate to what you’re saying here. Though I see some of the benefits of using laptops in classrooms (especially for accessibility issues), I also notice how distracting they can be! Most of my classes during my graduate education have forbidden laptops, and that has worked fine for me. I prefer writing on paper most of the time anyway. During my undergraduate years when laptops were allowed during class, I noticed a LOT of my peers doing really unproductive things but I also noticed some of my peers using their laptops effectively. I want to say that I won’t allow laptops in my future classrooms, but I am still trying to sort out the pros and cons.

    • nordicgod

      Good afternoon Kristin,

      For sure, accessibility issues are always an exception and must be allowed. The key term you used in your reply was “unproductive” which I strongly agree with. If the computer was being used to do something productive for a class then I understand, but, in general I just don’t see it happening that often.

      Thanks!

      Cheers, Lehi

  2. Stephen T-N

    It took me a little while to develop a thought on this because as someone who has conformed to the comfort of taking notes on my laptop I can really see the benefits for me that it brings. However, I reflect back on the days I would take handwritten notes and I did actually retain the info a little better because I physically wrote it done instead of typing. I agree that laptops present a certain level of distraction especially if teaching undergraduate courses, as those students would assumably be more easily distracted. I personally would grant a little more latitude to graduate courses because my assumption is at that level graduate students would be a little more invested in their field of study to not allow themselves to be so easily distracted.

    • nordicgod

      Good afternoon Stephen,

      I have many friends who only take notes on their laptop as well. For sure, I understand that point and they are like a fish out of water when they are “forced” to put the screen down because a professor doesn’t allow their use in a class. I usually giggle at the sight of someone huffing and puffing because it is their security blanket and now they have to actively engage with the professor…..I mean what a concept!! I get it though and you are correct, balance is the key!

      Thanks!

      Cheers, Lehi

  3. baileyfood

    I can see how banning laptops would be beneficial if the manner in which the information is disseminated is interesting and utilizes multiple avenues of learning (i.e., not only lecture and perhaps use of other technologies or activities rather than laptop-based needs). I do often see social medias opened on laptops, especially in undergraduate courses, which are likely not enhancing course material.

    • nordicgod

      Good afternoon Bailey,

      Absolutely! I think the key words you used is that one must keep the information dissemination “interesting” and “use multiple avenues of learning”. That is exactly my point, as a professor it is my responsibility and commitment to engage daily with students to ensure comprehension and understanding. That is where I think most professors miss the mark.

      Thanks!

      Cheers, Lehi

  4. Amy Hermundstad Nave

    Thanks for your post! The issue of laptops in the classroom is always very complicated to me. And like Kristin mentioned, I think there are a lot of pros and cons that I am constantly sorting through. In your post, I really appreciated that you discussed the different aspects that you do want to include in your classes (such as discussions). I think a lot of times we can get really focused on the various aspects that we will not allow in the classroom instead of focusing on how to structure the environment so that students are engaged and learning. Thinking about whether or not to allow phones and laptops is an important consideration, but so is thinking about what activities and elements will help the students learn. Thanks for the post!

    • nordicgod

      Good afternoon Amy,

      I agree, using a positive spin and explaining how I will replace the “security blanket” of a laptop is going to be crucial on the first day of class when the students freak out! LOL! I strongly believe the students won’t even miss them because there will be so many engagement pieces they won’t have the opportunity to let their mind stray or they’ll miss something exciting!

      Thanks!

      Cheers, Lehi

  5. jschlittepi

    As one unable to organize or retain paper notes and deeply beholden to the google ecosystem, I would be greatly saddened by such a requirement. I had the great pleasure of taking classes with one particularly cohesive cohort of public health students. For every single exam in each class, the students would make a single google sheet summarizing all of the expected content, lecture notes. The data fields on these docs were tailored exactly to the spec of the professors’ study guides, statements made in class, and the format of previous assignments. A fair bit of moneyball occurred as all students studied directly to the test. However, this enabled every student to study in their own way, as many worked in groups or transcribed to flashcards. While students may have suffered some breadth of knowledge due to studying exactly to the test, they greatly benefited from both quantity and accuracy of knowledge due to the collaborative cross validation. Had laptops been forbidden, this coordination could never have occurred, and the cohort would have suffered lower grades and competency for it.

    • nordicgod

      I completely understand how if the discipline calls for the use of a laptop then it should be encouraged. Yeah, I would never trust studying for a test based upon someone else’s notes. I’m too much of a type A personality to do such a thing! LOL! I think it is neat that you were all able work together and build a strong community. Thanks for sharing!

      Thanks!

      Cheers, Lehi

  6. Shaun Respess

    I really appreciated your post, primarily because I also teach in a discipline that would be hindered by laptop use. In complete honesty, I am in favor of laptops; I love them and think they work well in the classroom. I am sympathetic to those disciplines that need/demand them in their courses as a way of engaging with the material.

    However, like you there is no positive purpose for the material I am teaching them. The majority of my material requires discussions and deep engagement with peers. So while I love them as a tool, I challenge my students to give me a reason to allow them. My first reason against them is that they serve as a distraction to others. If a student wants to look at other material, that is partially on them for not investing their energy on the material and partially on me for not being “engaging” enough to hold their attention. However, other students in the room have not chosen to look at their peer’s screen and now somewhat feel the need to, taking away from their experience. In addition, this policy challenges me to keep my energy up and be more “worthwhile” for them, since I have their undivided attention to some degree.

    The second and more obscure reason I do not allow them is to maintain community. Eye contact and a more engaged posture signal to others as they are speaking that their ideas matter and are being heard. In a class deeply dependent on discussion, this feeling of mutual respect, engagement, and understanding are essential. If myself or any other student is talking, we should not feel like your other projects are more important.

    Finally, as others have noted, all notes in my class can be done in handwritten notes. I use PowerPoint (much to my dismay), but they are available on Canvas after class anyway. They do not need to follow along on their own laptops as we are moving through it.

    I am pro-laptop, but anti-laptop in my classrooms until further notice. Maybe I am just waiting on better reasoning, but have yet found none.

    • nordicgod

      Good afternoon Shaun,

      I think you and I would get along great as co-teachers! LOL! Yes, I would say that conversation and deep engagement is going to be critical for my discipline instruction in the future. Hahahaha, the section on peers looking at another’s computer screen is totally relative and happens. I’m a private person so wouldn’t look at someone’s screen but now days I feel that privacy is not respected in most situations. Community and eye contact are what make a class fun and enjoyable. I really enjoyed your comment!

      Thanks!

      Cheers, Lehi

  7. Maryam Yuhas

    I really like how you talk about allowing laptops only for certain things required in the syllabus, so you are still utilizing technology and reaping its benefits but not letting in hinder the students learning process. As for taking notes on laptop, I am still on the fence about this as well, like some other commenters here. I think we should allow students to take notes/learn how they see fit best, but like you said if note taking wouldn’t be required maybe a laptop shouldn’t be present. I can see the benefits and risks on each side. I think this is a really interesting topic and still requires some more pondering on my end.

    • nordicgod

      Good afternoon Maryam,

      I absolutely will utilize technology because I know that it makes sense to do so in some circumstances. I’ve just seen too much web surfing and FB status updating especially with the undergraduate students. Like Shaun mentions above the PP will be available on CANVAS online so even if their “handwritten” notes miss something then they can review the lecture afterwards. There are definitely pros and cons to every situation.

      Thanks!

      Cheers, Lehi

  8. Tami Amos

    I think there should be a balance in he classroom. As a teacher, I think it is very important to be creative in the classroom. There are many things one can do to teach a lesson without the use of electronics. On the other hand, with the use of technology being used on standardized testing, it is important that students are able to use the computer effectively in order for them to be successful on the test.

    • nordicgod

      Good afternoon Tami,

      You are correct in that students must be able to effectively use electronics, but, I’m not so sure having a laptop open in my class would help them in that capacity. Most standardized tests nowadays have computerized practice exams which should be utilized under “real” conditions and time constraints.

      Thanks!

      Cheers, Lehi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *