Laptops in class cause distractions, hindrance to learning

Schools and universities are becoming more technologically savvy as every new class of students enters each year. In some classes, desks come fully loaded with a computer, and in other classes, students bring their own.The classes that offer a computer to work on are generally classes that require computers in order to conduct the class. Each class meeting is mostly hands-on with little lecture.

In standard lecture classes though, many students are bringing their laptops from home and using them as note-taking devices. The pen and spiral notebook combination is slowly going out of style.

Allowing computers in lecture classrooms begs a question that most students don’t want answered: Are students with laptops in class paying more attention to their computer or their professor?

In most classes I’ve attended where students bring their laptop from home, it not only distracts them, but it distracts me. Have you ever sat behind or next to someone that is surfing the Internet on their laptop? It’s hard to pay attention to a boring lecture when students around you are playing games and shopping on their computers.

Laptops are one of my favorite technological advances and it is completely understandable why students use them to take notes. Typing notes is faster than hand-writing notes and therefore, allows you take down more information.

That would be a great concept if that’s what most students used their computers for in class – but they don’t. Laptops in classes that don’t require them are more often than not, a distraction.

On the other hand, take Bradley Hammer, a writing professor at Duke University. In his classes, his students rarely write old-fashioned papers that are only seen by the professor. His assignments are given and completed in blog form so that students are challenged on their points daily by other students.

“In real ways, blogging and other forms of virtual debate actually foster the very types of intellectual exchange, analysis and argumentative writing that universities value,” Hammer said.

In a case like Hammer’s writing classes, would students be required to have laptops in class or would computers be provided for them?

Either way, without a professor’s watchful eye and continual pace around the classroom, students are inevitably drawn to the Internet.

Why is it so hard for us to part from our e-mail, Facebook and MySpace accounts for an hour and a half to gain knowledge and try to learn something?

The answer is simple. Society is run by technology and young people, such as students, who want to please society.

When Hammer teaches his classes, he wants students to engage in and embrace technology. He uses technology to advance students, not hinder them.

In a class like that, where society is brought to the classroom, students have no need to bring their Internet-surfing laptops to class. He engages them in what they desire to learn. This is the way to use technology, not as a distraction, but as a tool.

Marissa Warms is a senior advertising/public relations major from Irving. Her column appears Fridays.