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Professor Bans Laptops from the Classroom

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the luddite-heros dept.

1260

An anonymous reader writes "USAToday is reporting that students are up in arms over a University of Memphis Professor who has decided to ban laptops from her classroom. Earlier this month Professor Entman sent an email warning to her students to bring paper and pens to take notes and leave the laptops at home. From the article: '"My main concern was they were focusing on trying to transcribe every word that was I saying, rather than thinking and analyzing," Entman said Monday. "The computers interfere with making eye contact. You've got this picket fence between you and the students."'"

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I Wouldn't Call Her a Luddite (5, Insightful)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973279)

I'd call her a free thinker. We need more of them in the world.

Re:I Wouldn't Call Her a Luddite (1, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973388)

Shes either a Luddite or on a power trip.

I'm a Graduate Student and I take my Powerbook to all classes. I pay for University and I'll be damned if a Professor will tell me how I'm going to learn and if I can/can't take my laptop to the class I am paying for.

Re:I Wouldn't Call Her a Luddite (4, Insightful)

xWeston (577162) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973465)

An Electrical Engineering professor I had at UCSD didn't allow laptops either. I thought it was a good idea.

In math/engineering classes (or most of them) it is hard to take notes without a pen and paper(tablet) anyway.

Re:I Wouldn't Call Her a Luddite (1, Insightful)

venicebeach (702856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973477)

I'm a Graduate Student and I take my Powerbook to all classes. I pay for University and I'll be damned if a Professor will tell me how I'm going to learn and if I can/can't take my laptop to the class I am paying for.

Should you also be allowed to take your boombox into the classroom and blast it? After all, you are paying for the class.

Part of the job of a teacher is to teach how to learn.

Re:I Wouldn't Call Her a Luddite (5, Insightful)

Marx_Mrvelous (532372) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973484)

You're kidding... right? You are paying for the privilege of learning from an expert in a subject. If something is interfering with her teaching, she has every right to remove it from her classroom. It's nice that you're a Graduate Student and all, but you've obviously not learned proper respect for your professors yet. Grow up!

Re:I Wouldn't Call Her a Luddite (1)

Kwiik (655591) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973486)

are you in IT? If so, then I agree. If you are in law, then you need to get a check on things as you can be you won't be able to bring your portable computer in to many court rooms.

Re:I Wouldn't Call Her a Luddite (4, Insightful)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973464)

I'd call her a free thinker.

Most free thinkers make bad sheep/employees/citizens/etc. That is why it is shunned so much in the US educational system and workforce.

I work with computers for a living, but honestly, my personal problems or interests don't need the scale of computers I work with.

To me, staring at a screen, typing every word that a prof says into a Word document is a stupid waste of technology. Isn't that what sound and video recorders are for? Although its been a while since I've been in a college classroom, when I was there, most of my professors taught from PowerPoint presentations and I scribbled the extra information on the slide printouts that were given before the class or at the beginning of the semester/section or whatever.

Personally, I learned more by asking questions of a professor and interacting with them inside and outside of the classroom. But then again, I was/am a free thinker.

Re:I Wouldn't Call Her a Luddite (1)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973483)

The only way a laptop is of any use in the classroom is if it has no ability to connect to anything but researh materials that relate to the curriculum in all the classes the students attend. Kill off IM. Kill off e-mail. Kill off anything that might be entertaining or some form of communication with the outside world and then maybe a laptop might be a useful tool. But far too many idiots just use their laptops to avoid actually working in class.

Re:I Wouldn't Call Her a Luddite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14973490)

If they learnt to type then they could just clean up the doc after the lesson - I don't think that would take their attention away from the subject. However, it would be better if she gave out adequate notes after the class, so they wouldn't need to write it all down. Or, are they just going on the web or playing games?

What's next? (5, Funny)

klenwell (960296) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973284)

Requiring students to actually show up to class?

Then after that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14973435)

Requiring students to actually show up to class?

Then after that, the students will actually be expected to pay attention to the professor's lecture.

Re:What's next? (1)

releppes (829336) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973444)

I must agree. What good are computers in the common classroom? However, base on her reasoning, I think paper and pencils are a distraction as well. All I ever did was doodle with them anyway.

Re:What's next? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14973472)

It's definitely a slippery slope.

Let's not be hasty (1)

Trojan35 (910785) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973300)

and judge this one way or another. Or make any grand conclusions from one example. The professor found that in their class, students who were using laptops were not learning as well as students who were taking notes. Thus the professor banned the laptops in order to help the students learn better. Let's not use this one example to come to a conclusion that laptops or no laptops are the best way to run every single classroom.

Re:Let's not be hasty (1)

pete6677 (681676) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973375)

I've always wondered why some professors feel the need to protect students from themselves. If a student is distracted during lecture and not learning, the failing grade they receive on their next exam should be their clue to change something. If they don't take the hint, there's not really a lot the professor can do. Students have to take it upon themselves to do what they must in order to learn; an unmotivated student will not be a successful one regardless of the professor's efforts.

Re:Let's not be hasty (1)

avronius (689343) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973409)

Sadly, a high percentage of failures is considered to be a reflection on the teachers abilities to communicate ideas and concepts, rather than on the student body's ability to understand them.

Re:Let's not be hasty (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973423)

Hi, welcome to Earth. You must be new here.

On this planet, every person has their own idea on how Things Should Be. In most cases, they will actually expend effort to compel people to follow these ideas.

Re:Let's not be hasty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14973410)

But shouldn't it be my decision whether I want to learn or not learn?
What if I'm one of the few people who learns better with a laptop?

She shouldn't have banned them, she should have discouraged their use. It's college, not high school.

Re:Let's not be hasty (1)

Silverstrike (170889) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973492)

Who said she actually determined that?

Its been my experiance that professors tend to enforce certain rules to satisfy their pet peeves. Some profs care if you attend, others don't -- regardless of whether you learn more while in class or not. This could easily be a similar case -- maybe she just doesn't like staring at laptop lids for an hour or more every day.

Personally, I think its asinine. I always hated when they tried to make me learn "their way". I don't learn a damn thing from listening to someone talk "at" me. I skipped most lectures in college. But, what I did do, was every bit of reading assigned, and then I went to office hours with a list of questions to ask. Only once, in four years, did a professor tell me he had covered my question in class.

But, that was just how I learned.

don't fear (5, Insightful)

flynt (248848) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973301)

My main concern was they were focusing on trying to transcribe every word that was I saying, rather than thinking and analyzing

Oh, I'm sure they were thinking and analyzing, but more likely about how to win the current game of Minesweeper or Solitaire.

Re:don't fear (1)

Alizarin Erythrosin (457981) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973460)

Solitaire? Minesweeper? Feh... I used to play networked Starcraft with my friends in the dorms during the more boring auditorium classes.

obvious solution (4, Interesting)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973302)

People should just take audio recordings of lectures instead. Then you can automate transcription. If you record video or snapshots of the white/black board then you're really covered. At that point, you can fully involve yourself with the lecture, without having to worry about the risk of failing to record something you'll need to pass the final. Every school should encourage this.

Re:obvious solution (1)

Embedded2004 (789698) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973335)

What would the benefit of that be?

Come study time you're not going to want to play back all your recordings. You are going to want to quickly read through notes taken of each lecture.

Re:obvious solution (1)

dynamo (6127) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973440)

The benefit would be that when you're in class, you can focus on paying attention rather than typing a transcript. You can do the notes thing when listening, and then go through that.


What the teacher really wanted was eye contact. You can do that while typing, but you have to practice.

Re:obvious solution (1)

Vengeance (46019) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973342)

Hell, take it to the next level. Set up a video camera with a good microphone and record each lecture. It's not like there are production/distribution costs these days.

Have a student assistant set it up and the prof doesn't even need to understand it.

Re:obvious solution (2, Interesting)

waif69 (322360) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973367)

In the last few college courses that I took, the teachers had no problem with tape recorders in the classroom, they had the students put the recorders on lecture so good audio could be achieved and the students took notes and weren't focused on getting every word, knowing that we would have tape to reference later. Those who recorded the class averaged one letter grade higher than those who didn't. Most of us, who recorded, listed to the class while driving home and had two sets of notes, what we took in the class and the rewrite that we made when out of class with our original notes and the tapes.

online lectures (1)

Daverd (641119) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973378)

Professors should just make all their lectures available online. It means students don't have to worry about all separately copying down what the professor is saying. Many of my professors did this at my university and it helped a ton.

Re:obvious solution (4, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973380)

People should just take audio recordings of lectures instead.

It's a growing trend for schools to offer podcasts [google.com] of lectures as well as information about the admissions process.

Re:obvious solution (2, Insightful)

Tweekster (949766) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973433)

I have never taken an exam that hinged on a fact that was just said once in class. Good professors let you know what is important, what you need to know because the exams reflect what is important to know for the class and to get something out of it. I think a laptop for class is a distraction... Hell my GREAT classes (the classroom time) required very little notetaking...why because we were expected to have the notes from the reading material first, to know the info first. Then to have it all explained in class. It should make sense then.

Re:obvious solution (1)

paulsully (922487) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973488)

The upcoming OneNote 12 is rumored to have automatic audio transcription, through voice recognition. It won't be perfect but it theoretically would keep a general index of what was said during class.

Emailing Students (5, Funny)

u16084 (832406) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973303)

Since Students were not making eye contact while taking notes, she emailed them again, stating pencils and pens are now banned also.

Re:Emailing Students (1)

BecomingLumberg (949374) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973370)

After freshman year, I only had to look down to start a new line. I don't know about lefties, but I could feel the end of the notepad so I never went over. Occasionally I would have an errant note if let the page slip, but it was rare.

Re:Emailing Students (2, Interesting)

LoonyMike (917095) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973415)

I can type on a computer and maintain eye contact with someone (not look at the keyboard or screen). But I can't do that while writing with pen and paper.

Thats not the only thing they are doing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14973305)

I would say 80% of the people I see with laptops in class are on AIM/IRC, Web browsing, gaming, or some other non-related piece of crap. Its a real pain also during dark lectures (art history classes or when watching movies) because the screens light up like Baghdad during the Gulf War. Not really what I want to be seeing when I'm supposed to be watching a movie.

In one class in fact the teacher told all students with laptops to either sit at the very far left/right, or in the very back row, so as to minimize any disruption. I think thats a fair request.

Ya (1)

neuroscr (132147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973308)

Uhm, I don't know many people that can write and make eye contact with the teacher for very long. So no change here.

nothing to do with note-taking (2, Informative)

spartacus_prime (861925) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973309)

In my experience, the banning of laptops from the classroom is because teachers don't want students IMing each other or fiddling around on the Internet when the teacher is teaching. This professor can't possibly be focused solely on note-taking.

And then... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14973311)

...she'll probably tie part of the grade to actually participating in class.

Design the course so laptop users falter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14973315)

How about designing a test protocol that only rewards those students who pay attention and follow the teacher's process and not merely the content. Then the laptop transcribers will simply score poorly.

Of course, this is more like actual *teaching* vs. fact regurgitation.

Re:Design the course so laptop users falter (1)

yderf (764618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973501)

I disagree. As a teacher you are supposed to try to teach everyone in class, not fail those wanting to use different note taking methods.

Also, some subjects require fact regurgitation.

S/He's trying hard not to see... (1)

Andabata (778566) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973322)

Funny. As far as I recall it, whenever a teacher/professor presented information without actually discussing it with myself or my colleagues, I used my pen&paper to transcribe as closely as possible what s/he was saying, so that I could later study it at my own pace. Most people I knew did the same. What matters is how s/he conducts classes. If he acts like a solo singer, students act like bootleggers.

Ridiculous (2, Insightful)

thatguywhoiam (524290) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973323)

I can type a lot faster than I can write with a pen.

Why didn't the Prof mandate voice recorders, if that was really the concern?

Re:Ridiculous (1)

Anonymous Monkey (795756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973496)

So can I, but the really helpful bits in on my note pad are sketches, diagrams, and doodles about what I'm listening too. Typed notes can't include that(yet). Also, pen and paper adds a level of physical interaction with the subject, therefore aiding memory. I love my computer, but when it comes to a quick sketch on the go, my note pad is still the epoch of technology.

Can I say "good" (5, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973325)

I've taught a number of classes at university level, and I hate people note taking with laptops, for the following reasons:
i) Too few of them are good enough typists to focus on whats being said properly.
ii) It's almost impossible for them to copy down diagrams or any complex equations, or make decent marginal notes.
iii) It's much noisier than pen and paper, and paper is easier to highlight and annotate.
iv) They remember the content better if they make pencil notes, and type them up later.

Re:Can I say "good" (1)

xWeston (577162) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973494)

Even as a good typist (130wpm), I still find it hard to take notes no matter the subject. Some (Psychology and the like) are easier than others though.

No Notes (2, Insightful)

nfdavenport (599530) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973327)

Although some old schoolers will disagree, taking notes is a waste of time. She needs to go one step further and give the students the notes in the first place. Then, if necessary, the students can add their own comments and annotations.

My high school AP Physics teacher did this and I have kept those notes for 15 years. I loved that class because I could pay attention to what he was saying and really LEARN.

Re:No Notes (1)

thatguywhoiam (524290) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973407)

Although some old schoolers will disagree, taking notes is a waste of time. She needs to go one step further and give the students the notes in the first place. Then, if necessary, the students can add their own comments and annotations.

Dingdingding! We have a winner!

Prof should record herself and offer a podcast of the lecture. Additionally, diagrams and more complex imagery could be made available at a web address - even if it was just a digital camera photo of the blackboard, it would be a great help.

I do recall reading about a University (not sure which it was) that offered students iPods at the beginning of the year with lectures pre-recorded. Now that's smart.

She may well be concerned about IM'ing and whatnot, but she shouldn't ban computers without providing some kind of alternative method - paper and pencils are not going to address the problem she identified (eye contact, engagement).

Re:No Notes (1)

Craig Davison (37723) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973489)

You can't give students notes. Unless you're the type to transcribe every word the prof says, notes are whatever you need to write down while you're listening to the lecture and focusing on what's being said. That varies from student to student. If you want some written materal that covers the subject at hand, you've got the textbook.

I think this professor has a great idea. If you remove all distractions, and force yourself to not think about anything but the lecture, you have a much better chance of learning the material. If you need your notes on the laptop to keep yourself organized, type them in later.

Purpose of lecture time (5, Insightful)

timster (32400) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973329)

Often students seem to believe that lecture time is when the professor Speaks and the students are supposed to Remember. I'd guess this is due to poor teaching methods in public high schools, where there is a focus on rote.

Ideally the purpose of class time is for the professor to lead the students to understanding. The book has the facts and figures and whatnot, but for many students just reading the book doesn't make things click. Every group of students will need to be led to understanding a slightly different way, and class time with the professor is a chance for that to happen. It's supposed to be a session of brain activity, not mere transcription.

Re:Purpose of lecture time (4, Insightful)

dsci (658278) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973442)

I agree. In fact, I'd go one step further than this prof when I was teaching. Sure, there were things that wanted my students write down: solutions to sample exercises worked in class, etc. But often, I wanted to explain something - to communicate. So, I'd tell my students to put their pens down and look UP.

And, provide me feedback if they are getting "it" or not. As a teacher, you don't get that 'real time' if the students are blindly trying to transcribe every word or copy every mark on the board.

Re:Purpose of lecture time (2, Insightful)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973466)

Absolutly right.

But its a university, the students are expected to take the responsibility of ensuring their understanding. Banning laptops is simply patronizing. If somebody wants to focus on rote transcription, that's his perogative, and she should let him be.

It sounds like she made a decision that was (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973333)

It sounds like she made an informed decision and has a reasonable case as to why she made this decision. She should be held up as a model for heads of state and captains of industry to follow.

if its got wireless like most schools (1)

McDrewbie (530348) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973334)

They are all just chatting, looking at pr0n, playing poker and all that other stuff. Thats why I don't understand the move by some schools to make having a laptop mandatory.

Probably because... (1)

Channard (693317) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973478)

.. they want to be seen as cutting edge. Especially in the case of underpopulated schools and universitys in the UK where they're really having to sell themselves to prospective students. No-one stops to think whether they're needed, they just think.. 'Oo! Technology! That college must be cutting edge..'

This is a teacher? (2, Insightful)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973337)

"My main concern was they were focusing on trying to transcribe every word that was I saying, rather than thinking and analyzing,"

My past experience is that "trying to transcribe every word rather than thinking and analyzing" is exactly what most teachers want.

Re:This is a teacher? (1)

apankrat (314147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973437)

What I don't understand how not having laptops in class is going to help
students un-focus from "trying to transcribe every word that was I saying".

She is just a laptopophob if you ask me.

Re:This is a teacher? (5, Insightful)

MustardMan (52102) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973476)

My past experience is that "trying to transcribe every word rather than thinking and analyzing" is exactly what most teachers want.

That's because most teachers are bad teachers.

For that matter, most students in the US system are bad students. The way many lectures SHOULD work (especially in the sciences) is, you read the relevant section of the text before class, and then keep the text open while the teacher lectures and fills in the gaps in your understanding. In my experience TAing in the US, very few students have the discipline to actually prepare for lecture

Too Bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14973339)

Too bad this won't become a trend. I would prefer a tape recorder to a laptop (or laptop's Sound Recorder will do). You still have a copy of the lecture, but you don't have to switch attention from the professor speaking.

Ah diddums... the poor dear little lambs... (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973346)

why don't they do what I did... use mindmaps and back them up with a tape recorder and a digital camera... listen to the lecture at leisure later and refine the mindmaps...

plus, they're not really trying to take notes down on those laptops... they're IM'ing each other or catching up with some cruddy blog...

Me is listening at the moment... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14973347)

... Professor Entman - 2006 03 12.mp3

And who said an iPod couldn't remplace a professor?

Why is this newsworthy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14973348)

I've had several professors who disallow any kind of electronic devices during class -- CS professors, at that! I was in full agreement that they were a distraction during lecture. People were checking /. and watching videos on their notebooks instead of taking notes, which was hugely distracting not only for the user of the laptop but anybody who sat within eyeshot of the screen.

I ended up sitting in front of the class because the displays were too distracting to me, but every once in a while some asshole's boxy Dell would spin up belch hot air on the back of my neck.

Laptops aren't for taking notes (3, Informative)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973349)

I recently went back to school after a long time (10 years) off campus, and I was expecting laptops to be a much bigger deal than they are. For the most part it looks to me like the folks that are actually taking notes are still using paper. The folks with laptops appear to spend most of their time either surfing the web or chatting online.

I suppose I can understand a teacher wanting her students to actually pay attention. Of course, if she gets paid either way...

not a sad thing (1)

earthstar (748263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973350)

IMO,I dont know whats wrong with the paper and pen approach.Ofcourse some classes require a laptop.But then,only some REALLY require.
The latest tech isnt the best suited one always.
Agree?

Maybe it has more to do with being an undergraduat (2, Informative)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973351)

When I was an undergraduate student, it was before the widespread use of PowerPoint. I would try to transcribe every note, every equation.

When I went to grad school (2002-2004) I found having the PowerPoint slides allowed me to focus more on what the prof. was saying and I just took a few important notes.

To each their own. And if the professor thinks this is best, so be it.

I agree (4, Insightful)

venicebeach (702856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973352)

I totally agree with this professor. When I teach I often feel like I am in a room full of stenographers. It's a distraction to me, and definitely is not the kind of interaction I want to have with a student. It's also counterproductive in my opinion since the best way to really remember something is to process it at the deepest level you can - think about it, connect it with other thoughts and knowledge, etc. That cannot happen when one is focused on the low level aspects of the information, e.g. translating the sounds into written text. The visual barrier the laptop screen forms is also a problem. Not only does it prevent me from seeing the student's reactions, but it's hard to compete with all that light for a student's visual attention.

To counteract this I try and provide as much material as I can - lecture slides available on line before class for example, so they don't feel there is a ton of information that will be lost if it isn't written down immediately. This improves classes immensely.

Re:I agree (1)

DarkNemesis618 (908703) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973467)

I agree with you too. Laptops, especially now with most campuses being wireless, provide too many distractions. I'd disagree with a campuswide ban on laptops in class simply because there are some classes where having a laptop is helpful, but some its more a distraction than a help. Ultimately it should be the professor's decision as to whether or not a laptop is permitted. The students should just suck it up and write the notes manually. Besides, one thing I found for myself is that typing up the notes that I wrote after class was a great way for me to review the material and able to learn it better, plus getting an easier to read copy to look over later.

Thinking in lectures (5, Insightful)

Tx (96709) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973354)

I agree with her that students should be spending their time thinking about what she's saying, but writing notes on paper doesn't facilitate that any more than laptops do. My favourite lecturer at university gave us printed notes for every lecture, precisely so we didn't have to write anything down, and could focus on thinking about the subject. I did great in that class, and to this day I don't understand why many lecturers still insist on making people take notes instead of following suit.

Laptop / Paper what is the difference? (1)

TomTraynor (82129) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973356)

The only difference is that of technology. The students will still have their heads buried in paper furiously trying to write down everything she says and there will still be no contact. If the students are fairly proficient typers they can watch her while typing. If she was truly worried about making them think then she should ban all writing tools and at the end hand out speaker notes where they can pen in their thoughts/ideas.

Re:Laptop / Paper what is the difference? (1)

frantzdb (22281) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973481)

The only difference is that of technology. The students will still have their heads buried in paper furiously trying to write down everything she says and there will still be no contact.
True, but I see two distinct advantages of paper: First, paper doesn't have IM or games. Second, and more importantly, paper makes it easy to annotate, write in the margins, draw arrows, circle things, make tables, and draw diagrams, all of which are condusive to learning.

Well, she has a point (1)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973359)

She is probably right that laptops impede learning in a classroom. I'd like to see a study to prove this one way or the other, but anecdotally I expect she is right.

However, a ban on laptops is silly. If someone wants to stack the deck against themself, let them. Its not for her to regulate the way people learn. I really don't see why she cares so much. A better argument for a laptop ban would be cite the clicking keys as a distraction to the lecturer.

It is a university after all, the onus on learning is on the students, not the profs.

Re:Well, she has a point (1)

venicebeach (702856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973449)

If someone wants to stack the deck against themself, let them. Its not for her to regulate the way people learn. I really don't see why she cares so much.

I have to disagree with this. It is precisely the job of a teacher to regulate the way people learn. Teaching is not just about producing a set of material and dumping it on students, leaving it up to them to learn. It is about creating a process that results in student learning. That involves engaging the students in a particular way; some ways are more effective than others. Regulating the environment is an important part of this - you would not hold class on a busy street (unless that was the subject of the class).

It's a great thing that she cares so much, and students would be better of if more teachers did care enough to make decisions like this.

eh (2, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973360)

I don't take notes, never have since high school, so I found that all I do in class is use wireless. Finally had to stop taking my laptop to class so I'd at least pay attention.

Good for her. (1)

Alaren (682568) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973363)

/me applauds

Don't get me wrong--used properly, technology can be a great tool. Personally I love my technology, but I will be the first to admit that sometimes it distracts me from honest human-to-human interaction.

There were probably more "politically correct" approaches this professor could have taken, but she perceived a barrier to learning and proactively took steps to address it. Substitute "banned laptops" with "banned the reading of newspapers" or "banned the eating of means" or "banned the use of cell phones" and there wouldn't have been a news story... but it amounts to the same thing: removing perceived distractions.

(P.S. before you flame me as a luddite, I'm not saying this was the best decision the professor could have made, or even that it was a good decition. Certainly in her shoes I would not have made the same decision. But I like to see educators who are really interested in educating, and who do their best to pursue that end even when it upsets their students.)

Bring paper and pens to take notes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14973368)

I think paper and pens are too much technology. They should be required to use a stylus and clay pads. Or perhaps charcoal and reeds.

makes sense (1)

jahjeremy (323931) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973376)

It is easy to screw around when you have a laptop and the screen is faced away from teacher -- very easy to just look at some webpage. My favorite learning aid is a voice recorder. Then you don't have to pay much attention the first time, just show up -- invaluable for test review and the like, especially if teacher is a mumbler or poor speaker of English. Of course, the whole mode of instruction where a bunch of kids sit in front of teacher and write notes seems to be getting a bit antiquated.

Next step (2, Funny)

iMaple (769378) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973381)

The professor announced that his next step was to ban all the paper and pencils in the class.

"My main concern was they were focusing on trying to transcribe every word that was I saying, rather than thinking and analyzing, The notebooks interfere with making eye contact. You've got this picket fence between you and the students. Even since paper and writing was invented teaching has been hindered. I propose that we abolish the alphabet once and for all"

I like (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14973384)

I like biscuits

The Professor is arguably correct in the theory (3, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973400)

You've got to concentrate on what is being described, not on what is being said. The students are not there to be secretaries - unless it's a secretarial class. However, pen and paper alone won't fix the problem, as the students will just transcribe that way.


In this day and age, the simplest thing would be to have the lecturer set up a webcam that can view the lecturn and blackboard/whiteboard, with a microphone to record what is said. The students could then be issued with a DVD of the lecture, which covers the notes angle. In order for the students to bother turning up - and stay awake - the lecture then has to become more interactive, with students actually solving problems (for example) for which they are graded.


The best way to learn is to do, the best notes are the ones NOT made in a rush in real-time, the best classes are the ones where students learn more than what is presented - but also where you are not penalized for not mind-reading what "more" you are "supposed" to learn.

If you don't write, you might forget how! (1)

thundergeek (808819) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973402)

I'm a geek to the bone, and use my Axim's calendar like if I forget, I'll die! However, I still use that ancient device known as a pencil.

As much as I would like all classes to get on the PC bandwagon, I think there should be at least one class that sticks to the basics. And if the students want to complain about it, then they shouldn't sign up for that class.

As far as the reason behind why she is doing it, maybe it's a little off base. The students paid for the class, and unless it specifically says, "No laptops" then they should be able to carry them in.

Just my big fat O-pinion

Laptops Don't Always Improve Learning (5, Insightful)

ironwill96 (736883) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973411)

Contrary to what the media and Bill Gates or Steve Jobs would like you to believe, sometimes technology in the classroom can be a distraction.

I graduated just a year ago from a decent size University (10,000 students) and since I was getting a Computer Science degree I saw laptops in use in a lot of my classes. I'd say that 50% of the time people were playing video games of some sort or another, playing FreeCell or Solitaire, watching DVDs and generally using the laptop to do anything *but* take notes. This in turn distracted everyone else around them as they focused on whatever the person on the laptop was screwing around doing instead of on class.

I'll be honest, some of these classes were boring and I was occasionally envious of the people with laptops, but when I went to do homework or study for a test, I actually had some notes since with just pen and paper there is not a lot you can do to amuse yourself unless you have a really active imagination or like doing the box game or playing Tic-Tac-Toe for hours on end.

Now, some will say "but not everyone will use the laptop to screw around", and that's not my point. The point is, SOMEONE will, and that will distract everyone else. I've seen it happen and anyone claiming that it doesn't happen is lying.

So basically, I applaud her move and think that not every class should allow laptops in the classroom as sometimes technology is more of a hindrance than a help.

Laptops in class? (1)

Andr0s (824479) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973412)

Call me a luddite... but professor has a valid point. As I see it, laptops don't beling in a classroom unless the lecture requires use of software or is about use of software, or if student is handicapped or disabled and needs one to follow the class.

And yes, I think that using laptops to take notes is ridiculous and counter-productive. Those students are attending a law school, not a dactilography course. In all my years of 'higher education', including university, specialisation courses and even high school, actually paying attention to the lecture itself and taking shorthand notes resulted in 3 positive consequences: I learned how to listen and extract important fragments of information; I developed excellent short-term memory and good shorthand; and organisation of shorthand notes into useful studying materials after class made for exceptionally efficient study sessions in and by itself.

Breaks eye contact? (1)

racazip (829595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973413)

I'm a college student and I bring my laptop to several of my classes. Where did she get the idea that using a laptop breaks eye contact? I'm not able to write without looking at the paper. As for typing, it's ten times faster and I don't have to look at the keyboard (I can't speak for everyone though.) I understand the importance of paying attention in class, but I don't understand why a computer would impede this (aside from wifi access, but that's another story for another day)

Not Uncommon (1)

arfuni (775132) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973416)

It's not all that peculiar. I am a student at the University of Memphis and I've already had one professor (a different one) in the business school ban laptops from his class. I can understand why, honestly, after sitting behind people playing WoW on their laptop for an hour and a half rather than paying attention...

Her class = her rules (1)

KerberosKing (801657) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973424)

Provided this isn't breaking some school rule or civil law about equal access for special needs types or something, I think she is entitled to set whatever policy she thinks is most effective in teaching her classes. However were I a student in one of her classes, I would likely drop it if it was still in the window to do so, or if not argue that she should wait till the next term to do so, giving people fair warning so they can decide up-front to agree with her teaching style or not.

To me a laptop is an essential tool, my notes go into it real-time, my research materials, my papers, my projects, there is just no way I would go back to leaving all that behind and have to spend time transcribing hand written notes into something useful. I also think that hand writing notes is no less invasive than typing them, for me at least I type much faster than I write, so I can listen, take notes, think and respond much easier with a laptop than without.

Good call (1)

nickmue (905710) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973426)

I go to a school that "gives" you a laptop at your orientation. I think its hilarious to sit in the back during class and look at everyone else's screens. You can see everything from legitimate notes (always your token 1 or 2) to playing NES via emulator or Yahoo pool with the person next to them. I will admit, during classes I don't feel like paying attention to, I will open up the laptop and get lost in some instant messenger convos or anything else. Though profs aren't quite as nieve about the situation anymore. I have some profs that wont let you use your laptop for notes, though these are mostly in my math classes where it isn't as easy to take good notes by typing unless you are an ace at LaTex. My point is that I used to take notes on my laptop my freshman year, but have since moved away from it. It just seems easier to go back and look through notebook paper than sift through word documents.

A semi-clever college student (1)

UberHoser (868520) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973432)

Not only took notes via the classroom pc, he created a screensaver with all of his notes..... and had that running while he took the final :D

Use a scanner (1)

spooky_nerd (646914) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973436)

If you really need to keep your notes organized on a computer, why not pick up a scanner and some OCR software. Of course, you also need to be able to write. Being able to print legibly, to say nothing of writing in cursive, seems to be a skill that is dwindling in the general population.

Seriously though, does anyone want to recommend a good OCR package?

Tablet PC's (1)

milamber3 (173273) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973438)

Does she plan on making exceptions for tablet pc's? I know a few people (myself included) who take written notes on a tablet pc instead of paper and pen in class. It's no different then writing on paper so the percieved threat to eye contact should not apply. Later when I can search my notes for specific things it makes studying 10 times easier, I would hate for teachers like this to take that ability away.

Why is this a Story? (3, Funny)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973445)

I've had professors that don't like laptops, and probably a few that have stated no laptops in their syllabi. Why didn't they make the news? I'm in the middle of a class right now (although a 10 minute break), and I can say that this is more distracting then it is useful during a lecture. I typically only use it for notes (except for really boring classes), but I rarely see anyone just using a laptop for just notes, if at all..... If she was saying "blah blah, you can't come in the room with a laptop in your bag. if you do, you are not allowed in class" I could see why this is a story, but this is stupid. Teacher likes students paying attention. Now I will return to class due to the professors glare...

Your rights online? (1)

Channard (693317) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973450)

You writes offline, more like. They should be given partially filled handouts - that way they actually have to think about what's missing, and fill in the gaps so it actually goes through their brains properly.

Video of Classes (1)

Omega1045 (584264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973452)

I went to a small engineering/technology school in a rural state, starting in 92. When I started I don't think any of my professors would have allowed a video recording of class. By the time I left, I had actually been in a few classes that were taped by the school and those tapes could be checked out at the AV center. I imagine that those tapes would be encoded to a digital video format like mpeg and available on a school server for today's students. I cannot imagine a school today that would not allow recording of lectures, but I imagine that some professors may. Take notes later, pay attention in class? Sounds like a good idea. If nothing else, bring a $30 tape deck with a good microphone and record the lecture discreetly.

Bad Timing. (1)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973453)

If the timetable for that school is anything like others, she made a major change to the class in the middle of a semester, meaning that students currently in the class can't just switch to another teacher or drop the class and get a refund. If I were a student of hers, I'd certainly be upset about that (and worried that she'd do it over something else). If some of these students had known from the beginning she wasn't going to allow laptops, would they have still taken the class?

As for whether it was a good idea to ban the laptops...I think by the time someone's in college, it's their responsibility to take care of themselves. Let them do what they think works for them, as long as it doesn't bother anyone else. Professors all have their quirks, though, and they can generally be tolerated and worked around.

Better idea (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973455)

I had a professor who did this at Rutgers. He even took it a step further and would ban ALL note-taking for portions of some lectures.

A lot of people were very upset, of course -- they wanted to get through the class by rote learning and regurgitation. If it matters, it was Medicinal Chemistry...

In the long run, I think hand-writing notes is better than typing them. For one thing, people remember things better when they hand-write them. Second, good notetaking by hand requires you to organize your thoughts, and the lecture points, in order to take effective notes. Third, the eye-contact barrier is definitely an issue for lecturers, who (if they're any good) need the eye contact both for feedback and to maintain the attention of the class.

My strategy was to take handwritten notes, then type them up in outline format in the evening while the lecture was still fresh in my mind. I'd retain much of the information just by that process -- the lectures where I didn't do this is where I had difficulty.

At any rate, I believe it's her lecture, and her right to ban laptops, recorders, or anything else. Students who don't like it are missing out on gaining experience in critical listening. Also, the real post-college world will frown upon you taking your laptop to a business dinner so you can remember what was discussed.

Finally, just a note on the complaining students -- you can't always have everything the way you want it. If you have a medical reason why you can't handwrite notes, I'm sure they will make an exception. Otherwise, suck it up and handwrite your notes, and be thankful that you have the opportunity to do so.

Tablets (4, Insightful)

Therlin (126989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973456)

My previous employer was a University that was about to go "mobile" by requiring every student to have a laptop.

After a few tests and faculty round-tables, it was decided that the models that will be provided at steep discounts to students will be tablets just because of the "picket fence" effect that is mentioned in the article.

Furthermore, tablets encourage the use of a stylus which means that (many?) students will still be taking notes by writing and analysing instead of typing.

Eye Contact and the Law (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973457)

"The computers interfere with making eye contact. You've got this picket fence between you and the students."

Most likely these students do not make eye contact because:
1) They are afraid of being called on to answer what exactly is the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and how it became law
2) The teacher is unpleasant to look at
3) The student is shy
4) This would interfere with their SIMS character from finishing a successful hot tub interlude

People being reasonable???!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14973463)

I can't believe all these reasonable posts like "don't judge one way or another" or "teachers want students to learn". I think there is a bug at this site where cross posts with another site are occuring.



Yes, an xvid of a class would be great and the class could be used for actual human interaction, but it would depend on the class, the teacher and the students.



I remember taking a tech college course for a year, 7 hours a day with the teacher. I honestly think that for myself there is no better way, and if university was like that I would go back in a heartbeat.

Wrong approach (1)

AaronW (33736) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973475)

One of my best classes in college was a physics class where the professor made all his notes available ahead of time in the book store. He used an overhead projector for his notes, but the beauty was we could just listen to his lecture and scribble additional notes (rarely needed). We didn't spend all of our time transcribing his notes, but instead just listening to his lecture. As I recall, I didn't take that many notes in the class, but I learned far more in that class than my other physics classes.

This was in the early 1990s. I doubt things have changed much, though, except maybe professors using Powerpoint.

Towards the end of my college education the company I worked for during the summer let me keep the laptop I was working with. I brought it in to class and used it to take notes. That was a godsend. I could easily search all of my notes and reference them much faster than by pencil and paper. Not to mention, I could type a hell of a lot faster than write in a notebook. Other students would ask for copies of my notes as well. If the notes were not available ahead of time, this was the next best thing. Of course, back then laptops were common in college.

-Aaron

so what? (1)

nuggetman (242645) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973498)

It was right on the syllabus for my TV Production class that we aren't allowed to have laptops in class while the teacher is lecturing. Why's this a big issue?

Four reasons to ban laptops from class (2, Funny)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973500)

1. people spending time on slashdot and blogs instead of paying attention.
2. people spending time on email and IM instead of paying attention.
3. ...
4. profit!

Seriously, though, since most courses are podcast nowadays and have the slides presentation on the web, students having to not use their laptops is not a serious problem, especially since many classrooms at university/college are wired.

Well, at least they are here. We even use these clicker things where you answer multiple choice so the prof can see if the students grok what's being taught, or should spend more time on an area. Much more fun than a pop quiz.

its the way mind and paper connect (1)

k1980pc (942645) | more than 8 years ago | (#14973502)

I feel books are better than reading something on my laptop..and taking notes always helps me remember things lot better than using stickies..
may be it is the extra effort u put..or something subconscious..but i could never replace my ibook with my notes...eventhough that was the main purpose when i bought it
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