FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, June 12, 2006

Laptops in the Classroom: Good or Bad?

As both an attendee and presenter at meetings, I have a good idea of how many people who type away on laptops during presentations are taking studious notes... and how many are checking their e-mail, IM'ing their friends, surfing the Web or playing games.  Here's a hint:  The note-takers are in the minority.

With more students bringing laptops into classrooms, teachers and professors have the same sneaky suspicions.  So much so that some faculty are urging the banning of wireless Internet and even laptops themselves from classes.  Among the schools considering such a ban are Harvard Law School, which may institute a crackdown when students return this fall.

In addition to students who find their laptops a distraction, many professors feel that laptops' presence inhibits class participation and student interactivity.  Some have proposed blocking wireless Internet from classrooms... but on many campuses, this is no longer feasible technically.  Individual professors who have banned laptops from their classes claim that they have received few complaints and that their students get more out of the classes.  But is this unfair to the students who actually use their laptops to take notes?

With laptops becoming less expensive -- and initiatives such as One Laptop Per Child that advocate computer technology for everyone, everywhere -- laptop use will become an expectation among ever younger students.  How will this conflict with instructors who see laptops as a threat?  Will educators try to incorporate technology more into the classroom experience, or will the classroom become a "tech-free zone" that emphasizes human interaction, with laptops and other devices reserved for distance learning?

And for those who doubt that students are doing anything other than productive work while in class, watch this video clip...

Source:  TaxProf Blog