You Abuse It, You Lose It

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‘In classroom #1′
courtesy of ‘poplinre’

The GW Hatchet reports that some professors have banned laptops, iPhones and Blackberries because students were using them for non-class related purposes (i.e. Facebook, AIM, email and even gaming).

Now having gone to highschool and college when laptops and smartphones were just becoming mainstream, I didn’t have that type of technological distraction. Instead, we had to rely on old fashioned doodling, note passing and daydreaming. The most technically advanced we got was playing “Drug Wars” on our TI-83 calculators in trig class. I was always so bummed when I got mugged riding the subway in Shaolin.

Point is kids have and will always find ways to distract themselves from learning about Joseph Proust’s theory on atomic theory or Emily Dickinson’s poetic themes of love, nature and death.  Unfortunately, laptops and cellphones take this distraction to a whole new level.

Yes, laptops can be uber useful for note taking, organizing and on the spot research, but their powers seem to be used more for evil than for good. Like Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker “With great power comes great responsibility” and if you’re not going to be responsible with how, when and for what you use your power, then you shouldn’t be allowed to have it in the classroom.

Rebecca Johnson

A born and bred New Yorker, Rebecca made the big trip “down south” to DC in 2006 and hasn’t looked back. She spends her days strategizing/planning/ideating how interactive products can help her clients and change the world. In her free time, she explores DC’s ever expanding bar, restaurant and small business scene, plays a crap ton of soccer, attends concerts that contribute to her sleep deprivation and embarks on local adventures. Read why Rebecca loves DC or follow her on twitter.

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8 thoughts on “You Abuse It, You Lose It

  1. It is rude to the instructor, but the point made that students have always found ways to distract themselves during class is extremely true. I also have to point out that it is not just students, I couldn’t count how many times I have been at meetings, as a participant or observer and watched people who should be listening to the presenter checking their email or surfing the web on their laptops.

  2. Srsly? Look, if I’m paying whatever godawful amount per credit hour, you had better believe I’m going to do what I want with my 15 inches of notetaking/Facebooking/IM-ing space.

    Not to mention how many useful backchannel conversations were had during my time in college, e.g. with students exchanging back and forth commentary/ clarifying notes via IM.

    In my last two years of college, I was in a program that actually encouraged us to use our laptops in whatever way we felt was useful during class. If that meant working on our portfolios while the professors talked about video editing tricks you already knew, then you worked on your portfolio.

  3. B: I think using laptops for class specific uses (i.e. exchanging back and forth commentary/clarifying notes via IM)are an appropriate use.

    But posting videos to your Facebook profile or chatting with your roommate about if you’re out of Ramen are what we’re talking about here.

    Additionally, if you’re paying whatever godfull amount per credit hour, I’d think you’d want to get the most out of your money by seriously concentrating on the classes content and discussion, not what your buddy just IM;d you.

  4. That’s my point, though. How does my professor know if I’m talking about Ramen or the Romans? He doesn’t.

    College students are old enough to make the decision on their own, imo. “Getting the most out of my money” might mean that I choose to spend that 10 minutes of my professor rambling about nothing in particular …writing a grocery list and emailing it to my roommate.

    I think this KIDS THESE DAYS outrage is a little over the top, really. Give it five years. You’ll have Google Wave backchannel discussions in every college lecture class. In many cases, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were professor-initiated. And yeah, there’ll be a significant amount of OMG I SLEPT WITH XXX LAST NIGHT on the side, but hey, at least they aren’t asleep.

  5. B: So you’re a “glass is half full” type of person when it comes to trusting students to be responsible using their laptops. I, on the other hand, am not–you’re not talking about Romans, it’s all Ramen.

    Also, it’s not the student’s role to determine the importance of whatever their professor is saying and whether or not they should pay attention.b You go to class to listen, learn and focus on what the professor determines.

    I don’t think the taking away of laptops is a case of “Kids These Days Outrage.” Throughout time there have been items banned or prohibited in schools and colleges. Think baseball caps, walkmans, slap bracelets, long-hippie hair on guys, Tomagotchi, etc. This is just a modern example of educational institutions trying to limit distractions.