So I’ve got a question for those in my readership who have done more teaching than I: what do you all do about laptops? I’m planning to ban them, but I’m having some difficulty committing to it.
Pro the ban:
1. I’m old school, even though I’m young. I think we all managed to learn just fine taking notes by hand, and I don’t feel like the ability to take notes on a laptop enhances actual learning (as opposed to enhancing the volume of dictation-style notes that don’t correlate to actual learning).
2. I think professors have the right to insist that students pay attention, or at least put on a show of paying attention. And while in theory, checking your email is no different than doing the crossword, I can’t help but think that the internet provides too many opportunities to distract others with your constant typing, the inappropriate laugh, or flashing images.
3. I generally work with the idea that college students are adults (which could be one argument towards letting them use their laptops). The absolute last thing I want to do is walk around the classroom trying to catch people browsing the internet; I don’t want to check the quality of people’s notes. For some reason, it feels a violation of their privacy to demand that I look through their notes. I’d say the same about the “lids up”/”lids down” approaches I’ve seen mentioned on various forums; it just seems like it uses up class time and focus on something I don’t want to deal with. These aren’t kindergarteners.
4. Back to that dictation issue: even those students who are taking notes should learn that notetaking isn’t transcription.
5. I intend to use my laptop (or whatever computer equipment is in the classroom) as needed to show images and clips and the like. Not sure why they need theirs as well.
6. And while I’ve seen many suggest the good uses of laptops and ways to incorporate students’ use of their laptops into your teaching, I can’t help but wonder about that one student who doesn’t have a laptop. Sure, I’m going to be teaching at one of the country’s most elite universities, but that doesn’t mean everybody’s going to have their own laptop.
Con the ban:
1. I’m not really a Luddite.
2. I feel like I could be too young to pull this off. As in, I’m just a year or three shy of the people who grew up almost exclusively with computers and internet.
3. This is the big one. Although my ban would come with the stipulation that students who need special accommodation for disabilities would be able to use laptops if that was the arrangement they made with the disabilities office, I also feel like having a ban could create a situation in which one student gets to use their laptop for the obvious reason: they need special accommodation. Correct me if I’m wrong, those of you more in the know, but it doesn’t quite feel right to have someone’s potentially unseen disability announced so publicly. Also, at my graduate institution, I had a student who had a student take notes for hir. Now granted, it could be that ze’s disability prevented hir from typing as well; but that’s one possibility, unless of course the student needed typed notes.
So that’s my dilemma, folks. I’m pretty anti-laptops, but I don’t want to create a situation in which it’s made clear to everyone in class who has a disability that they might not wish to be disclosed.
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