It’s the first day of class for the semester. My laptop is open and I’m waiting expectantly for the lecture to begin, wondering if this will be a manageable class or a GPA-breaker. I’m sitting, staring at the board and the clock, anticipating. The professor walks in, and I hear his fateful words.
“Please close and put away your laptops and phones. I don’t want to see them. Electronic devices are unnecessary right now and distracting. You can look at them at the end of class.”
I groan inwardly. My semester just became a lot harder.
Most of us have had a professor who only allowed old-fashioned pen and paper for note taking in class. They say it while staring at the Apple and HP logos sitting in front of most students as if the screens carried the plague or death themselves.
If you haven’t heard the call to put away your electronic devices, then you are in the minority. Or you’re hidden away in a large engineering lecture.
As a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, I am all too familiar with the devastating first-day-of-class decree to put away laptops and other devices for the next 50 minutes.
I am a firm proponent of technology in the classroom. I think laptops can be utilized in such positive ways to facilitate note taking, healthy discussion and grade-saving review opportunities before class. Laptops aren’t just sufficient for the classroom in 2018, but are absolutely necessary.
There is a fine line, however, between what we can do positively with our computers and what is often done negatively.
In an attempt to get professors to lift their bans on laptops in the classroom, students might have to compromise and stop using their laptops to text or scroll through Facebook during class. That way, all professors will feel comfortable lecturing in front of a room of students sitting behind screens.
I believe many professors at Lehigh assume open screens in front of students is equivalent to the scene in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” when the hapless high school teacher stands in front of a room full of bored teenagers ululating, “anyone, anyone?”
But, instead of daydreaming or trying to count how many pieces of gum are under their desk, students scroll through Facebook or vote on the ‘Maxim Cover Girl’ contest: 2018.
If students are engaging in these activities during class, their laptops are obviously a distraction. However, it is possible to download and apply programs like free parenting software that regulates one’s use of the internet during a specific period of time.
Professors also believe laptops might discourage class discussion. Many professors require vocal involvement, where lack of participation can result in a significant grade detraction. Asking students to put their laptops away will not encourage shy students to become more talkative during discussions.
When laptops are banned as a way of receiving information, students are left painstakingly writing notes as quickly as possible, while simultaneously trying to keep up with the class conversation, when they could be typing.
Professors might argue against laptops in the defense of practicing writing by hand. Beyond the legibility of your signature, the majority of the world doesn’t care whether you know shorthand or whether you got an A in penmanship. In fact, as far back as 2007, public schools in New Jersey stopped teaching script as a class.
Beyond the fading reality of handwriting, anyone who’s taken notes on a laptop knows that typing on a keyboard is neat and efficient. For many years during my academic career, I have been faced with what I call the mile-a-minute professor who leaves a student at the end of a lecture with hand cramps and pages of barely legible notes.
In the digital age, today’s students are less equipped with note-taking skills by hand. Whether that is good or bad isn’t relative to this discussion. For better or worse, typing is a more highly-praised commodity, and in the digital age, it is a necessity in the workforce.
Forced to write by hand, students lose valuable time and the ability to fluently participate in class discussions. They might struggle though handwriting issues, too. In addition, students waste valuable review time when they must copy notes from paper over to their laptops.
If college is to prepare us for the future, then laptops seem all the more reasonable.
Madison Peterson-Porta, ’19, is an associate lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]