Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Ban on Laptops

No doubt some of you reading are going to be disappointed and miffed at my recent ban on laptop computers in class. Given the volume of notes we cover in most of my classes, writing by hand will probably put some of you in a sling by the end of the semester.

Yes, part of my decision was driven by the distraction of wireless internet surfing going on during class. I didn't have to see your screen to know you weren't paying attention. It was quite obvious students were checking Facebook or reading email when they would be laughing or smiling at inappropriate times during the lecture (like the guy who busted out laughing, staring at his screen, during a discussion on prison rape last semester).

Part of it is also the national trend on many college campuses, going on the past few years, on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. I thought the initial bans were Luddite in nature and I resisted. Had laptops been around when I was in graduate school, life would have been so much easier for those of us who type faster than we write.

But the drive to provide every building or open space with wireless connections has made laptops in the classroom intolerable. Plus, and what really sealed it for me, was data a colleague of mine at UGA presented last fall concerning the grades of laptop v. non-laptop students in class.

While this was very informal, his research showed a clear correlation between laptop use and poor performance. Students who hand-wrote their notes outperformed their laptop-using fellow students by wide margins on tests, overall grades and overall gpa. For me, the data provided the final nail in the coffin on laptops in the classroom.

For those of you wondering, this also does not change my mind regarding non-use of WebCT. If you want to get the notes in order to do well on the exams, you have to come to class/discussion. It's that simple. But don't worry, I won't be reverting back to chalk and blackboards (my handwriting is so poor, I can't even read what I write most of the time).

On that happy note, I hope everyone has a great semester!

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