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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Are laptops OK in the classroom II

Just a quick follow-up to my post yesterday: I posed this question to an email list-serv of faculty in my college and more than one person echoed Suzanne’s comment, noting that we professors are often just as guilty of multi-tasking on our laptops during meetings as our students are during class. I can’t argue with that, and I know that my students are part of a generation that multi-tasks as easily as breathing. Still, I can’t help but feel there is a difference. When I find myself checking email during a meeting, it is after a conscious decision that whatever is being said is not worth my full attention and I do it with full knowledge that if I miss something, it’s my own fault (I also tend to use my laptop, if at all, in a position where others can’t see my screen easily). I hate to sound paternalistic but I am not all that convinced that my students are at that level of maturity and self-responsibility, particularly in my intro classes of 500 first- and second-year students. In a smaller and/or upper-division class, it may be a different story – I certainly have had conversations with juniors and seniors that suggest they themselves see how far they have come from their younger selves (another reason I find it so interesting that many of the media stories about this issue have involved law schools – surely those students are capable of being trusted to make the decision for themselves?). For now, I think I have decided to give my students the benefit of the doubt, though with a warning that excessive use of laptops for non-class purposes may result in a laptop ban, and asking those that feel the need to surf the web to sit at the back so they won’t distract others. I’ll report back what happens in the fall…
p.s. Just saw that there is a new application for students to access Blackboard (which my campus uses) through Facebook - oiy!

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