Plugging in and out with Technology in the Classroom

February 13, 2014 Opinion

While many of us have grown accustomed to typing instead of writing our notes, it’s possible that technology, by providing access to the Internet in class, hinders our learning process.

I am sitting in my class with Professor Smaw, when the girl in front of my desk pulls out her laptop, the way she does everyday. She opens Word and sets up a page for notes. Nothing strange. In the middle of class though, my eyes dart over her shoulder to see her change from taking notes to socializing with several of her friends on Facebook. I am sitting there behind her, stumped, wondering how she can multitask without any worry of missing key information from the professor. However, and more importantly, as I sit there watching, I cannot help but feel a little offended for Smaw, who stands in front of us every other day, spending his time instructing us. Will she get an A? Will she deserve an A? Although intriguing questions, what I want to know is how other professors feel about students and their laptops, or any technology for that matter, in class.

The instructor for Health and Wellness, Dena Pistor, has an open discussion at the start of every semester for each new class about how addicted my generation is to social media through every technological outlet possible. She asks us if we can go a day without checking our Facebook’s ten times and if we can leave our phones behind rather than bring them to class and everyone raises their hands in belief that we can do it—that we can go a whole day without them. However, at the next class, she asks out of all of us whether or not we succeeded. Only one girl raises her hand with the rest of us admitting what power these forms of social media have over us. It was kind of a blow, and I could feel how uncomfortable everyone felt. It was as if we all knew that our bodies had been taken over by the machines!

In classes where teachers, like Professor Phillip Deaver of the English Department, allow computers, I asked him how he felt about students and their laptops. “When it comes to writing prompts, for my class, it’s fine. Most students use them to take notes and write anyway. But I am livid when I stroll around and see a student online when I’m trying to tell them how to write a story.”

Professor Deaver is right when he says that some students really do need their laptops to take notes in class—I’m one of those students for a few of my classes where the lectures aren’t provided in notes, and writing by hand too difficult to keep up. On the other hand, I cannot even seem to keep myself every once in a while from checking my “Likes” when a teacher is not looking.

In response to the overwhelming use and abuse of laptops, some professors, like Pistor, will give us students fair warning, saying that if she catches any of us on social media, the whole class will lose computer privileges. If you think that’s bad, then you might want to check out Professor Personette, Professor Ruiz, and scores of other professors on campus, who have omitted computers in their classes completely.

The professors who do allow computers, like Deaver, believe it’s your time and money wasted when distracted in class, whether it be by your phone, laptop or iPad. But let’s forget about ourselves for a minute. The person at the front of the class, who spent years getting their degree and have chosen to teach you so that you can know as much as them deserves your respect.

And maybe that means leaving the laptop in the dorm, or at least waiting those fifty minutes until class is over.

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