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Professors Banning Laptops In the Lecture Hall

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the read-my-lips dept.

Input Devices 664

Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that professors have banned laptops from their classrooms at George Washington University, American University, the College of William and Mary, and the University of Virginia, among many others, compelling students to take notes the way their parents did: on paper. A generation ago, academia embraced the laptop as the most welcome classroom innovation since the ballpoint pen, but during the past decade it has evolved into a powerful distraction as wireless Internet connections tempt students away from note-typing to e-mail, blogs, YouTube videos, sports scores, even online gaming. Even when used as glorified typewriters, laptops can turn students into witless stenographers, typing a lecture verbatim without listening or understanding. 'The breaking point for me was when I asked a student to comment on an issue, and he said, "Wait a minute, I want to open my computer,"' says David Goldfrank, a Georgetown history professor. 'And I told him, "I don't want to know what's in your computer. I want to know what's in your head."' Some students don't agree with the ban. A student wrote in the University of Denver's newspaper: 'The fact that some students misuse technology is no reason to ban it. After all, how many professors ban pens and notebooks after noticing students doodling in the margins?'"

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First Post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31425054)


Re:First Post (2, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425128)


Hey, stop surfing around and reading /. and start taking notes!

Re:First Post (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425278)

This whole thing could be avoided if the wifi connections available inside the classrooms were heavily filtered. It would be a bitch to administrate, but it would stop people from playing games during class and get them to concentrate.

Re:First Post (1)

blai (1380673) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425220)

You are expelled.

Regards, Prof. Dumbledore

False analogy. (4, Insightful)

samurphy21 (193736) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425058)

Doodling with pen and paper doesn't absorb the attention to the same degree as playing Facebook games and chatting with friends via IM.

Re:False analogy. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31425076)

And remember, no margin, no Fermat's Last Theorem!

Re:False analogy. (5, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425112)

I believe that this would happen in a slightly different fashion today. "I have discovered a truly marvelous proof that all non-trivial zeros of the Riemann zeta function have a real part of 1/2, but the landing zone of my Macbook's hard drive is too narrow to contain the TeX file."

Re:False analogy. (5, Funny)

dwarfsoft (461760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425078)

Yeah, he should have gone with a car analogy instead...

New hardware opportunity? (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425176)

Maybe the manufacturers should add an extra digitizer to the notebooks for doodling or just add this feature to a bigger touchpad. Off course, a doodle application and a touchscreen would do the trick as well.

Re:False analogy. (1)

precariousgray (1663153) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425200)

Not to mention it's also a creative endeavor of some sort, as opposed to mindless absorption of memes and various related drivel.

Re:False analogy. (3, Informative)

theIsovist (1348209) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425216)

Also, the doodles may also be related to what is actually being taught and may be of use. I have many a drawing of monkeys attached to strings, in trees being shot by a hunter at X angle below. it's a lesson in motion, partially elastic colisions and pendular motion.

Re:False analogy. (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425224)

Perhaps more importantly, doodling isn't nearly as distracting for those around you as video/gaming/whatever(and yes, I have seen "whatever" to include "porn").

Frankly, it isn't my problem what you are or aren't learning in class. It's either your money, in which case it is your problem; or your parent's money, in which case they can always scream at you or cut you off. If you are going to be doing substantially distracting things in the same class where I am trying to learn, though, you've just made it my problem.

When you take a primate whose visual system has been shaped by millenia of evolution in an environment where every movement in the corner of your eye is either dinner or about to make you dinner, and put them a few rows back in a class full of screens showing moving images, their attention is going to suffer, whether they like it or not.

Re:False analogy. (0)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425280)

Your falsification depends on the accuracy of your personal bias. You feel that because when you doodle your attention is less absorbed than when you play Facebook games or use IM, therefore all people must share this experience equally. This is a highly irrational conceit, and does not take into account the different degrees with which different people are able to multitask and/or focus.

Re:False analogy. (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425324)

Doodling with pen and paper doesn't absorb the attention to the same degree as playing Facebook games and chatting with friends via IM.

Making paper planes out of the notes and throwing them at the lecturer does absorb the attention a lot. But at least it made Analytical Chemistry fun!

Re:False analogy. (1)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425384)

But I want to plant my fields, feed my chickens and kill a few mobsters really really bad!!

Re:False analogy. (4, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425416)

Hell, when I was in college you could SMOKE in class, and they never banned slide rules. I never took notes myself; I can't scribble as fast as the professor can talk, can't read my own scribbling later, and taking notes took my attention away from what the teacher was saying.

If there were diagrams on the blackboard, I'd scribble those down after class, unless they were replicated in the textbook, and if the teacher said "write this down" then I'd write it down.

The instructor's role is to better explain what's in the textbook, and discuss things that weren't in the book. If I was in school today I might use a notebook as a speech recorder (lots of students then used tape), but a notebook ban wouldn't bother me, I can record on my phone as easily as on a notebook.

Do professors still party with their students at after school functions? In a lot of ways you guys have it better than I did, but in a lot of other was we had it better. College was some of the best times of my life. Especially the Mississippi River Festival. Maybe I'll journal about that, it was awesome.

Internet (1)

yenne (1366903) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425068)

Sounds like the problem is Internet access, not the laptops. I wonder if today's professors know the difference.

Re:Internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31425318)

I do. All my colleagues in the liberal arts department readily use the e on desktops as well.

Re:Internet (2, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425358)

I've seen plenty of offline distractions as well(DVDs, local video, games, etc.), though the internet is of course the most common source.

In contemporary campus environments, though, how relevant is the difference? The campus, or at least all the academic buildings, are almost certainly blanketed by wifi, controlled by an IT department that isn't about to start taking "Please shut down all APs accessible in room X during times Y and Z" requests if they can possibly help it; and a fair few laptops either have integrated cellular modems or are tethered to phones with decently zippy internet access.

I'm sure that there are plenty of professors(and not just flakey humanities technophobes, the fact that you were writing formal CS proofs in TeX back when it was new doesn't automatically translate to a working knowledge of contemporary consumer electronics) who don't necessarily grasp the distinction; but I strongly suspect that it is a distinction without meaningful difference in most contexts.

The other issue is that, since most laptops have their screens sticking up vertically from the desk they are sitting on, you get the physically troublesome "wall of monitors" effect, no matter what is happening on those laptops.

If laptops are outlawed...only outlaws will have.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31425072)

this is censorship pure and simple. this is something Hitler would have done if he was a professor. in soviet russia, laptops ban you. I'll bet they wouldn't ban Natalie Portman's laptop...especially when she set us up the bomb. Digg this comment up please. Can I haz Cheeseburger?

and...? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31425086)

Two of my professors "banned" laptops in their classes. I kept bringing mine. They didn't do anything about it. Namely because they know they can't really do anything about it. Most professors ban students from texting in class. Because, you know, that doesn't happen either.

Re:and...? (3, Interesting)

ircmaxell (1117387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425438)

Actually, I wonder if you're on to something there. Is this ban a "I don't want to see it ever", or a "If you're disruptive, I'll kick you out"... I mean seriously, we're talking about college. It's not up to the professor if you learn anything, it's your job. If you're off screwing around on your laptop instead of taking notes, then it's your own dam fault. And a teacher that cares that you're not paying attention is one that I'd argue isn't doing his/her job. The reason I say it that way, is that at the end of the course, the teacher is responsible for verifying that you know the material. Not that you learned it in his class.

I had that happen to me in an intro to C course. I'd been programming in C for some years by that point but the school wouldn't let me skip the course (even though I demonstrated advanced knowledge). So after 3 classes, the teacher noticed that I was constantly surfing the net during the time when we were supposed to be working on his problems (He counted attendance). After the third class, he asked me to see him after. When he did, he told me I'd need to do the work if I expected to pass the class. I showed him every problem that he'd given us to do (that I completed in a few minutes). I then explained that I first ventured into C years ago, and felt comfortable with the material. So what did he do? The next class, he gave me a rather hard problem from the end of the course. He said if I can finish it by the end of class, I'd get an A and not have to show up any more. So I got my A, and had one less class to attend.

The moral of the story? Just because someone's goofing off doesn't mean that they don't know the material or that they should be punished. Learn WHY a student is goofing off before punishing them (After all, it could be because you fail at teaching). But then again, that's asking teachers to do their jobs...

Witless stenographers? (3, Insightful)

Thyamine (531612) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425088)

I don't know what they think is happening, but I had the same thing happen with pencil and paper. Trying to keep up with some profs who are scribbling madly on the chalk/whiteboard, or just droning on and on. Stuff gets written down with little or no thought so it can be studied later. I'd be happier having it in a nice doc I can search while reading my books or through other pages of notes. They just don't like the fact that their audience isn't as mentally trapped if they are boring or unable to retain student attention.

Re:Witless stenographers? (4, Interesting)

bcmm (768152) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425180)

I am dyslexic, and writing on paper at any decent speed pretty much takes my full attention, but I can type faster than most without thinking about it. I'm sure a lot of other people are like this.

I wonder how long it will be before someone challenges this as discrimination.

Re:Witless stenographers? (4, Informative)

Gribflex (177733) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425238)

I think it will never fly as discrimination.
If you are dyslexic, you can claim that you have a disability, and require special accommodations. This can be verified by a qualified third party, and you can then apply for an exemption to the rule (which I assume the school will grant automatically).

Re:Witless stenographers? (-1, Troll)

orzetto (545509) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425336)

I am dyslexic, and writing on paper at any decent speed pretty much takes my full attention, [...]

Nice troll, but dyslexia is a neurological disorder that affects reading, not writing. Anyway, if you remember which keys to press you can also remember which letters to draw. Your problem is that you type much more often than you write with a pen, and is nicely cured by exercise. Unless you have another neurological conditions, other than or in addition to dyslexia.

Re:Witless stenographers? (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425182)

Indeed. Some profs went way too fast, I couldn't stop to think about what was being said, I had to get it all down.. and try to absorb it later. Nevermind that I can type faster than write, and I can actually read something I've typed as well.

Re:Witless stenographers? (1)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425378)

I was pretty much in the same boat. I wish I had a laptop for college -- I genuinely can't read my own handwriting most of the time.

Re:Witless stenographers? (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425186)

Exactly. Personally, I can't take notes on a computer (it's a style thing; I don't write them in nice orderly rows and I tend to make lots of diagrams, arrows, sketches, etc), but even trying to take notes in class I was often reduced to being a "mindless stenographer." I couldn't process and think about what the professor was writing because I was too busy just trying to write it down, particularly with stuff involving heavy/high-level math. I usually wound up using the class notes not to learn from directly, but rather as references for doing the homework or making equation sheets.

Re:Witless stenographers? (5, Insightful)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425204)

I don't know about you, but myself and a few of my friends found that even though it seemed like both ways of taking notes would trigger the witless stenographer, writing by hand actually locked the information in, while computer note-taking meant you remembered little or none of it. Maybe it's just the time lag involved; in order to keep up while taking notes by hand, you have to buffer the information, reformat it to be shorter or faster to write, then commit it to paper (yes, I was a CS major, and it infects my description of non-CS related things). If you can type at the same speed the professor is providing the information, you're not forced to look for shortcuts, so you don't do any interpretation.

Of course, the other problem is the incessant keyboard clacking. They may simply be trying to reduce the "auditory clutter" in the room. If not for loud keyboards, I couldn't care less if other students are using a computer to take notes; if I'm right and the computer is a less effective tool, that hurts them, not me.

Re:Witless stenographers? (4, Interesting)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425340)

My fiancee found that (with her profs permission, of course) having an audio recorder up close to the guy while he was going through his lecture really helped her. She would write down the general idea of what he was talking about, then later that night listen to the recording and type out more complete notes, using her written notes from class as reference. Doing it twice and hearing it twice helped her retain more.

Granted, this won't work for everyone, but it certainly worked for her.

Re:Witless stenographers? (5, Insightful)

MichaelDelving (546586) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425428)

Agree, for any HARD class. E.g., upper-level undergrad and grad-level theoretic courses in your (engineering)department/major. You scribble every last greek character in every equation from the board, in a desperate attempt to try to get down every jot of information (also verbal explanations). You read over your notes later to 'unpack' and store the knowledge, because you were writing so fast you were only using the short-short-term buffer of memory. Before the exam, you recopy your notes neatly, and then you magically can reproduce any arcane derivation on demand. And then again, years later, in preparation for the comprehensive exam.

Re:Witless stenographers? (1)

lfp98 (740073) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425352)

At seminars, I found taking notes by hand much more distracting than typing on computer; I had to look away from the speaker and would lose the train of thought. With a computer I am much more engaged; I find myself putting the ideas into my own words. I'm not a great typist, so afterward I would go over the text and correct the errors, which helped to fix the ideas in my brain. I used to do this at scientific meetings but what ended it was that I would have to turn the power-save settings to max and I would wear out hard drives with the constant on-and-off.

Re:Witless stenographers? (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425440)

Stuff gets written down with little or no thought so it can be studied later

Which is precisely what the lecturer doesn't want. You're much more likely to understand if you listen to what they say, try and understand it and then write abbreviated notes in your own words than if you mindlessly commit words to paper.

This is College (4, Insightful)

rotide (1015173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425098)

Seeing how this is college, I'm dumbfounded by the "nannying" going on here.

The way I see it, unless laptops as a whole are distracting to _other_ students then they are nothing more than another medium to take notes on. On the other hand, if I happen to have a laptop that makes a lot of noise (intended or not) and it is distracting the professor or other students, then I see a problem.

Re:This is College (1, Insightful)

beakerMeep (716990) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425154)

Indeed, the professors work for the students, not vice versa. It always perplexed me why some college profs took attendance. They are there to teach not to babysit. If some schmo wants to blow his 30 grand a year tuition playing bejeweled, what does the professor care? I mean does the professor have some high score and he's hoping to eliminate the competition for the next international bejeweled tournament? Well actually, if that's the case, I guess it's ok.

Re:This is College (1)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425290)

In four years of college, I think I had one professor take attendance, and only in a first year class. What college were you going to? As for laptops, they are a distraction to the other students, either through incessant keyboard clacking, or, if the laptop isn't in the very back row, creating a visual distraction for everyone behind them.

Re:This is College (1)

mjschultz (819188) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425414)

My guess is that the attendance is taken to given them factual numbers to point to when the student fails out of a class. When a kid's parent calls the department to complain that little Timmy is too smart to be failing out of algebra and Professor Tweed should be fired, he can say that Timmy never showed up to class.

I agree that it is ridiculous that professors take attendance, but I don't think that is the problem. It's the parents who can't let their kid deal with consequences (and to be fair, more often than not I think the parent's $30,000 is paying the tuition bill).

Re:This is College (1)

johndiii (229824) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425446)

Indeed, the professors work for the students...

Not really. Professors work for the university, which sells a product to (in likely order of financial contribution, in the United States) parents of students, the American taxpayer, and the students themselves. The professors' work product is evaluated by the university - primarily by their peers, but typically with some input from students. The other source of money is contributions from alumni, which depend on their perception of the university's prestige, which may or may not be related to how well students learn.

I'm with the GP on this — if it disrupts class, then deal with that. Otherwise let it go. If a student wants to waste parental funds, that is between the student and the parents.

This is the Professor's Ego (-1, Troll)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425162)

You'll never find a more self-absorbed cast (or more accurately, caste) of characters than you will in a University Faculty Lounge. Is it any wonder more and more of them can't abide the notion their students find what's happening in Farmville more riveting than what's happening in their lecture hall?

Re:This is College (1)

DeadPixels (1391907) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425208)

Exactly! You can ban laptops if you want, but it isn't going to make students pay attention if they don't feel like it. As long as they aren't distracting other students, I don't see a problem; they're paying to be there and if they want to use a laptop, that's their business.

Re:This is College (4, Insightful)

starcraftsicko (647070) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425394)

As long as they aren't distracting other students...

I think that the point here is that in many cases, they are in fact distracting other students. This doesn't mean that other students are going to make a public complaint.

I offer this analogy: "People should be able to drive as fat as they want, wherever they want, so long as they don't endanger others." OK? But sometimes simply driving fast creates the danger. And sometimes, the driver fails to notice this. For example, I think that I don't endanger anyone when I drive 60mph through university parking lots at 9AM...

So the university (or city or whatever) could wait for complaints or deaths, or they can regulate speeds. I concede that over-regulation occurs, but is the regulation itself unjustified?

Re:This is College (4, Informative)

starcraftsicko (647070) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425218)

Unless you are in the back row, your WoW or YouTube or Facebook (or Slashdot) are a visual distraction to _others_ even with ear buds or if muted. The "nannying" happens because you (or a meaningful number of your classmates) can't keep themselves from providing this distraction. You (they?) simply can't stop. Even now.

Re:This is College (4, Funny)

beakerMeep (716990) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425326)

You sound like Alliance.

Re:This is College (1)

rotide (1015173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425420)

I see what you're saying, but I have to disagree.

Most lecture halls I've ever been in were setup stadium style, this makes it very easy to see the board and the professor. Even if the person sitting "directly" in front of me (usually off to the side a tad) was playing WoW, it's still very easy to see the professor.

If this was a classroom where the open laptop partially obscures my view, I'd probably fully agree with you as it's always in your direct view. However, being off in a peripheral makes it quite easy to ignore.

I've been in classrooms in the past 10 years with other students playing games and I was able to see their screen quite easily. As long as I wasn't already distracted mentally, I never had an issue paying attention.

Prof's need feedback (5, Insightful)

Alarindris (1253418) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425248)

I'm in a band and the one thing that really makes it hard to play well, or at least enjoy playing the show, is an unresponsive crowd.

I could be totally off base here, but I'm guessing that the prof's need feedback too. If they see every face in the classroom looking emotionless at their laptops, the prof's have no idea if anyone is listening at all. Obviously it's the students' money to burn etc. etc. But it would probably make it hell to teach a class to essentially nobody.

Re:Prof's need feedback (1)

rotide (1015173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425296)

Just an FYI, lecture halls usually have 100+ students (easily) and don't go beyond some human up front talking for the _whole_ period only stopping to take a breath from time to time.

It's not a classroom setting, it's a lecture.

Re:This is College (1)

gsslay (807818) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425338)

unless laptops as a whole are distracting to _other_ students

I think we can take it as read that that's exactly what happens. It's very hard to concentrate on a lecture when all around you resembles a gaming internet cafe. And that also applies to whoever is trying to deliver the lecture.

Re:This is College (3, Funny)

Angostura (703910) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425348)

It's madness, I know. The idea that teachers might want to think about the best way to ensure that the information they are trying to impart is absorbed and retained by their students.

When I was a student, I found the best way to enjoy lectures was with my eyes closed, listening to my Walkman. I didn't disturb anyone, so I have no idea why the lecturer took exception to my stance.

Re:This is College (5, Insightful)

bwalling (195998) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425368)

The way I see it, unless laptops as a whole are distracting to _other_ students then they are nothing more than another medium to take notes on. On the other hand, if I happen to have a laptop that makes a lot of noise (intended or not) and it is distracting the professor or other students, then I see a problem.

I've been going back to school to get a Master's at night. It's pretty annoying that the classroom is full of kids watching TV or movies on their laptops. While I do what I can to sit near the front so that I don't have any video playing on a screen in front of me, it's not always possible. I have to leave work to get to class, so I can't just show up early enough to get in front of the TV watching idiots.

From a purely anecdotal perspective, I'd say 60-70% of laptops in the college classroom are being used for entertainment, not note taking. At the very least, I'd like to see them confined to the back few rows of the room.

Re:This is College (1)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425418)

Seeing how this is college, I'm dumbfounded by the "nannying" going on here.

With respect friend, I'm not sure when you went to college. I graduated in 2006, "nannying" was exactly what was going on. My school was filled with kids that had graduated high school but had no idea what they wanted to do with their lives, and had no interest in growing up and being responsible. As a student that paid out a lot of money for the ability to attend those lectures, I expected that the other students in the room would show a little bit of respect to their peers. If myspace or youtube is so important that a person just can't bear to tear yourself away and be an adult for 90 minutes, they shouldn't bother coming into class. Or they should have sought out a more ADD friendly higher education option (like online universities).

Few things bothered me more than having my professors slow down their lecture or the class conversation to accommodate someone that wasn't paying full attention. Personally I found it disrespectful and selfish.

Re:This is College (1)

jandersen (462034) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425436)

Seeing how this is college, I'm dumbfounded by the "nannying" going on here.

One of the purposes of a university is to teach students. The teaching part is important; otherwise you could just sit in the library, but teaching is (or ought to be) an interation between the teacher and students, where the teacher can respond to questions and clarify points is necessary; teaching is something the class takes part in. You can argue that the students are old enough to decide whether they want to listen; but if they don't want to take part, they can go somewhere else and play games. If the majority of a large class are not interested in taking part and just waste their time, they not only contribute to making the room cramped, they also produce an culture of "don't listen to the grey man down there" - both of which hurt everybody's ability to learn.

Wait.... (1, Insightful)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425106)

How someone learns is their own business, not the lecturer's. That's why it's a lecture and not a 'class'. The lecturer doesn't (or shouldn't) take personal interest in how you understand, they expect you to absorb and understand of your own accord. If you just type everything up and learn later on, that's your business.

I have this issue with some mathematics of comp-sci classes at the moment. I'm OK at maths, but I find I can't really use what I've been taught or contribute to discussion/examples until I've tried out [whatever technique/method we're learning] on my own in my own time. So I do something kind of similar to the "mindless stenography" - in the lecture at least. What I do outside of the lecture is what counts.

Re:Wait.... (1)

bwalling (195998) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425320)

It's pretty annoying when someone in front of you busts out a laptop and starts watching a movie. It's much harder to pay attention to the lecture when there's something more interesting going on. At the very least, they should confine laptop usage to the back rows.

Re:Wait.... (1)

gravos (912628) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425334)

Agreed. I have a few professors that have tried this stunt and I'll let them have it if their class is super-interesting, but if I'm ever bored or have to sit through material I already understand for an hour while I could be working, I lower their rating at the end.

Re:Wait.... (1)

Greymane (949969) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425354)

Actually, professors are graded on the success of their students. If they perceive that the laptop/cell phone is preventing the students from learning, it is in their best interest to block their use during class. Also, why would you be attending class, only to ignore what is being discussed?

Well... (5, Funny)

scross (1621251) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425110)

I bet there's someone in a lecture reading this right now.

Re:Well... (1)

dazjorz (1312303) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425412)

I guess you're right, then... *stares at blackboard for five seconds* naah, on to Slashdotting

good move (4, Insightful)

nerdyalien (1182659) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425122)

I am a TA and I attended a math tutorial class as an observer earlier today. I was sitting in the last row. I saw one or two guys with laptop open, playing first-person shooting games.

When I attended university as a freshmen 8 years ago, laptops are still clunky and not easy to carry around like netbooks. So somewhat we were forced to take down notes by hand.

In practical lab classes like signal processing, in my day we had to manually copy the signal traces on analogue oscilloscope to the lab notebook. But now, with camera phones, its a matter of taking a snap.

I am not against new technology. But technology that hinders the education.. should be kept outside classroom!

Re:good move (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31425192)

When I attended university as a freshmen 8 years ago, laptops are still clunky and not easy to carry around like netbooks. So somewhat we were forced to take down notes by hand.

Good point. Taking notes by hand doesn't automatically improve your grammatical skills neither.

Not your dime... (1)

rotide (1015173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425250)

Whose education are those kids who are playing games during class, hurting?


Another students?

Who is paying for those kids to sit in the classroom?


The professor?

It's his money and his time. If he isn't being a distraction and hindering the education of the other students, then you really have no say, at all.

Would he get a better education if he wasn't playing games in class? Debatable. He could just as easily waste time doodling, texting on his cell, sleeping, or just plain bunking the class to do what he wants.

While you _think_ he should be doing something else. It's his (or his parents) dime. Not yours.

Re:Not your dime... (2, Funny)

chronosan (1109639) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425456)

That's a very one-sided view of things. The success of every student should be top priority for a professor.It may be that they (the professor) is a genuinely good person who cares about other people and how their education will affect society years later when the student is in the real world, or that in the university's eyes the success of the student reflects the effectiveness of the professor. In any case, education ... hey, get that sniper on the crane... HEADSHOT!

A novel idea: be a better teacher (5, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425136)

Here's a thought: Instead of banning distractions, be the distraction yourself. For centuries, teachers have been competing with distractions, including daydreamers and sleepers. Laptops and the Internet are just more things to compete with. Instead, make your lectures interesting. Vary the tone of your voice, provide practical examples, and stay away from the temptation to just stand there and talk. Yes, you're a professor. Yes, students are paying to hear your ideas. No, they are not paying to just hear your voice.

Re:A novel idea: be a better teacher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31425294)

That's why I went to clown college.

Re:A novel idea: be a better teacher (3, Interesting)

psulonen (972101) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425388)

Problem is, many professors have no training as lecturers or teachers, and may not even have much talent for it. They may nevertheless be extremely good at what they do, and have extremely relevant and important things to say.

The course that most changed the way I think about stuff was by a prof who looked like he crawled straight out of some dusty archive, and he drone on in tedious monotone about it. The subject was just about the most boring imaginable as well. I had to struggle to stay awake for the first couple of lectures. Then I picked up on the substance of what he was saying, and it turned out it was some of the most insightful stuff I've ever come across, in any medium.

Conversely, there was another lecturer who was fascinating, funny, dazzling, and exciting, but never had anything to say that wasn't either trivial, wrong, or easily available in basic literature.

Is it fair to expect that professors are also great teachers? Personally, I don't think so. It would be a great bonus, but some profs just aren't cut out for it -- yet they may well be the ones with the deepest knowledge about their subject.

Re:A novel idea: be a better teacher (5, Insightful)

gsslay (807818) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425448)

College students are not kindergarten kids. Professors are not teachers.

College learning isn't fun and games, before a five minute nap and a carton of OJ. If the students are so attention-deficit that they have difficult maintaining concentration on anything that isn't presented like a shopping channel, then perhaps they should go play and leave the college learning to the grown-ups.

Laptop notes (4, Insightful)

LikwidCirkel (1542097) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425156)

Laptop/tablet note taking has drastically reduced my paper load and improved the quality of my notes. If I were in any of these schools, I would take this issue as far as I possibly could.. I actually have in the past with individual professors, and I always came out the victor because there is simply no sane justification for such a policy. That said, I have a big problem with students playing games in class where I can see their screen. I've told people in the past, that if they're going to play games, at least sit in the friggin back row so no one else can see. Disruption is, and has always been a problem, but banning laptops is not the answer. I could handle blocking wi-fi in lecture theatres.. that helps just a bit.

Re:Laptop notes (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425390)

I had one CS class in college where a couple of students famously spent most of their time playing chess. (We never really understood why the prof allowed that.)

Loop-hole (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31425158)

I would simply record the lecture and then transcribe it later on. Ha ha ha ha! That'll show them!

Oh wait....

None of there Buisness (3, Funny)

SirBigSpur (1677306) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425166)

I ran into this issue at my school and had a few professors get frustrated by students with laptops. However we talked about it in class and came to the determination that the people who are using laptops to screw around are only hurting them selves. And besides whose paying the tuition? This would be one thing if this was High school but not college.

Re:None of there Buisness (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31425190)

I can tell from the way you write that your education was remarkably effective.

Other students (2, Insightful)

Rtmm (1697118) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425170)

My biggest problem with those who come to lectures just to play games/chat on facebook or what have you, is that they are distracting other students. Its fine if you don't want to learn, just don't come to class. Other students paid money to come to class and generally don't want to be distracted by someone playing counterstike or watching youtube all class.

Re:Other students (1)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425310)

2.4 jiggahertz jammer?

It's probably for the best (4, Interesting)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425174)

It's probably for the best. I sort of slagged off in my 4th semester of Latin and would just look up translations of Cicero online and have it ready if I got called on. Caesar I'd just do, but technology enabled me to be even lazier in the second semester of my Senior year than I otherwise would have been. Not that Cicero is much relevant to my actual career, although the BOFH motto seems to be 'Auc Caesar, Auc Nihil' (and if it's not, it really should be).

That said, I didn't have a laptop at all when I was in high school, let a lone bring one to class. The first couple of years at college, I had eRacks setups in my dorm room and convinced IT to delegate me static IPs, so I could shell to my machine from anywhere else on campus, or get back in through the tunnel set up by the Comp Sci department on the Linux cluster if I were at home. I paid more attention in class back then.

I totally get the point of the ban, and frankly in a lecture hall setting there probably isn't a real need for the laptop as opposed to a seminar or lab setting. If I were to go back to school for another degree, chances are I wouldn't bring the laptop with me to class, however if I were told I couldn't, hell yeah I'd be pissed off.

Re:It's probably for the best (2, Insightful)

jittles (1613415) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425450)

I'm going back to school for a masters and I cant STAND the students taking notes on paper. The teacher has to repeat an important definition 5 times while they slowly scribble it down and I've typed it word for word on the first go.

People will pay attention if they want and preventing me from being able to quickly take notes so that I can spend time actually thinking about what the teacher has to say isn't going to make my learning experience better.

Lecturers should not be overzealous nannys (3, Insightful)

kaptink (699820) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425188)

Student who want to use laptops legitimately should not be punished by those who don't. And as others have pointed out, students traditionally doodled or read books or slept so why should this be any different. I think some of the older lecturers are stuck in old ways which are inevitably counter productive. Laptops do more good than harm. Besides its up to the student to pass the exams and it is not the lecturers job to 'nanny' students.

Re:Lecturers should not be overzealous nannys (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425350)

because it may have become a distraction to other students in the class? Lectures are not always meant to be one way either - class participation can be an important part of the learning expereience. From my own personal experience I am far more likely to be ignorant of my surroundings while working on a laptop in a coffee shop or library than if I am just day dreaming out the window. I would also suggest that while you (or more likely your parents) are paying to attend this class or lecture, you are paying for the right to attend a lecture on a certain subject by a (hopefully) qualified professor who is hired to lecture/teach in the way he thinks best.. If it is his/her view that laptops are a distraction then you should find another section with different professor.

Re:Lecturers should not be overzealous nannys (1)

Angostura (703910) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425382)

"Laptops do more good than harm." That's the assertion that is up for discussion here.

How about training the kids to use the PCs better? (1, Interesting)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425196)

Seems rather extreme & lacking in imagination. Maybe just cut the wifi in the lecture halls?
However, the interesting point for me is this one:
"I don't want to know what's in your computer. I want to know what's in your head."
In both business and teaching situations, I've found PCs can be incredibly helpful, or the reverse.
If everyone's 'head's down' doing their emails (typical business meeting) or facebook, (typical kids scenario) then of course there's no real communication or interaction.
But if you use PCs well, everyone gains.
For example, teach your colleagues or students to use mind mapping software (try 'freemind', or the better but costly Mindjet) and they'll save masses of time taking and then reviewing notes.
A mindmap takes little 'heads down' time to do, enabling people to think and participate in class, and then acts as a good revision tool.
Give people a soft copy of stuff, so they don't have to take notes, but can add to yours, and/or follow on their screen if they have visual or other difficulties.
Give 'em practical exercises...

C'mon guys, don't just BAN the things!

That's nothing (1)

mahiskali (1410019) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425210)

One of my professors not only wanted to ban laptops from his classes, but also had a portable cell phone jammer that made it impossible to receive texts or phone calls within a 20 foot radius of the classroom. In hindsight, reporting him to the FCC would have been the funniest damn thing in the world.

talk about counter productive! (1)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425236)

Even when used as glorified typewriters, laptops can turn students into witless stenographers, typing a lecture verbatim without listening or understanding.

Wait a second... when you're wearing your hand out scrambling to get hastily spoken lecture comments and uber complex differential equations on paper, you're spending exactly how many brain cycles actually listening or understanding?

I did a hell of a lot better getting my master's by having my tablet RECORD what s/he was saying, while watching and comprehending without having to worry about the huge distraction of taking so many notes. Of course I still wrote down stuff, but with the tablet I was also not killing trees while doing so.

Not engaging the class? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31425256)

Not flaming, but if my students are not listening, interacting and retaining, then it's a sure sign to me that I'm not being interesting and effective.
Look in the mirror guys, instead of shooting the tech messenger again.

Re:Not engaging the class? (1)

emkyooess (1551693) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425374)

It's damned near impossible, no matter how good the lecturer, to compete with addictive multiplayer andor online-games.

i agree (4, Interesting)

emkyooess (1551693) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425264)

Most of my faculty lately have said, "You can bring a laptop if you ask me explicit permission and you vet your notes past me for a few weeks'." AKA, he wants to make sure they're actually using it for that purpose for the first couple weeks.

Classes I've been in with open-laptops policy have been terrible -- I can't pay attention to the lecture because (a) all the clicking/keying around me but, more importantly, seeing (and sometimes even hearing) what they're doing. It certainly is NOT related to the class in any way. I'd see maybe one out of a dozen actually using the laptop in a decent way.

What's next? Burkas? (1, Flamebait)

popo (107611) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425286)

I think I speak for all the men here, when I say that there's nothing more distracting on Earth than a beautiful 19 year old girl in a tank top and a short skirt...

If the school is going to exercise severe administrative paternalism and attempt to remove all of life's distractions from the classroom, will they be forcing female students to wear burkas next?

Re:What's next? Burkas? (1)

Larryish (1215510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425432)

Can we please see a picture of said 19 year old girl in a tank top and short skirt?

Jumping to solutions (1)

meburke (736645) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425292)

This sounds like another case of "jumping to solutions" and not identifying the actual problem. (You would think lecturers who were actually concerned about this problem would know better.)

What problem are they trying to solve? Is the use of a laptop necessary and sufficient to cause a student's wandering attention? Are pencils and paper better for some reason? (And, Hey!, there may be a neurological support for that reason.) Pencil and paper notes take a different type of organizing skill; does it make sense to dump students into a situation where they are required to learn a new skill along with the content? Is the lecture format the optimum way to be teaching?

I ask the last question because I've taken some programs such as "Money and You" [] , "Powerful Presentations" [] , and "The Accounting Game" [] and 25 years later I can still reproduce the whole body of knowledge as if it was yesterday. (These programs were spun off from the Burklyn Business School. One of the best programs in the USA today may be the "Supercamp" program for teens. which teaches valuable study and life skills. [] ) These are only programs I know about; what else may be available?

Hey you in the second row ... (1)

rlp (11898) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425300)

Yeah, you with the red shirt. Stop reading slashdot and pay attention to the lecture.

No banning allowed here (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425316)

>After all, how many professors ban pens and notebooks after noticing students doodling in the margins?'
I have to agree here, it is not because someone misuses a technology that you have to ban it, tell that to those stupid
bastards over at FIAA thinking anything torrent is pirated.

Simple economics (1)

pays-vert (1182777) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425322)

The vast majority of students are not "paying for their education". Either the state or their parents are. And these paying customers (not the students) generally want value for money, meaning they want to see students come out of the sausage factory with something worthwhile to show for it. Colleges respond to their customers, by finding ways to make students learn. Hence, banning laptops in class (which based on my experience is eminently sensible and can easily be worked around for those students who genuinely need them).

No problem (1)

kiehlster (844523) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425332)

My Laptop purchase was delayed so long because of Chinese labor shortages that I won't have a laptop until the end of the regular college school year.

another way to attack this (5, Interesting)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425356)

If students are able to not pay attention, and still do well (enough) in classes, then make the classes more difficult.

Yeah (0)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425360)

Your lecture is boring, you are boring, you can't seem to focus on the important points and ramble, you talk about how we should focus our energy (you say that you usually find your energy centered just above your sternum), and you publicly harangue anyone who has a learning disability and actually needs their laptop.

Writing by hand aids memory.... (1)

aapold (753705) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425364)

At least for me it does. However, I'm happy to take notes on my tablet, and it works equally well for that (better, even). I imagine this would be a natural use of an iPad as well....

I can't write! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31425370)

Sorry, i don't get it. I sit down by a lesson, can't bring my laptop with me, can't use my iPhone? ?

The only thing I'm allowed to bring is a piece of paper and a pen with real ink? What was the use of that pen again? Stick it to my left ear?

Can't follow Facebook, send tweets, SMS, IMs, emails, buy phone applications before they are all removed from store, watch youTube videos, powerpoints of this and three more lessons, read RSS and news, update my system and a couple other VMware ones, one underneath and two remote, add some chapters to the school script, complete a project plan and set up the email to the Venture Capitalists for my new startup?

And, by the way, who is that babbling guy with big '80s glasses behind that desk? Can we have a little quiet please, we're trying to do some work here!

Pen and paper? (4, Interesting)

jbernardo (1014507) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425392)

I can't write with pen or pencil at a decent speed, if I want to be able to read it afterwards. My handwriting is awful, always was, and no matter how much I tried to improve it always remained awful and slow. On the other hand, I am a decent, fast typist. That is why I bring my notebook to all meetings, or to any course I attend (did you think you'd stop studying after leaving college?). I can imagine what would be if I was suddenly forced to use a inferior solution just because someone abused the efficient one.

In which century are these teachers living, btw?

Respect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31425410)

I'm first time poster, long time reader, basicially i'm 22, went through the last years of high school and got good enough marks to do something like dentistry in university(in aus). Anyway, i didn't do that. I emplore people to learn in their own way, but if the quote comes out "oh, let me check my laptop" thats just wrong. Sure, you may have touch typed your notes etc. but its not in your head. Get real, everyone really.... i mean lectures and students. You teachers grew up in a different environment, your teaching in something different. Learn it, dont ban it. Students, your dealing with old farts, just entertain them, hold a pen to a piece of paper.
JESUS (oh wait, cross that) NON-OFFENSIVE TERM; please just try to be nice to each other, what harm could come? an old teacher? just use the damn notebook (not laptop/notebook), please them. Is it that damn hard?

I agree (2, Interesting)

koan (80826) | more than 4 years ago | (#31425430)

I'm older and going back to school with a laptop taking notes in class was not working for me, I was easily distracted by either the program I was using, some technical issue, or fighting for the one power socket in the room and in the end I found I had poor recall and reviewing notes on the computer was, frankly, a drag.
Switching to paper kept me engaged, no technical issues, easy on my eyes to review, and the information stayed with me longer.
Not sure how it is for younger folks but paper note taking works best for me.

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