Computers in the classroom

Cassidy Fuller

One of my favorite things about a new semester is getting to know new professors. What are they going to be like? What is there teaching style? Do they favor tests over papers? All of these questions and many more run through my head on the first day, but the main questions I focus on concern what are the new professors class policies: specifically their views on computer use in class.

After three years on campus, I know that each professor has a different view on this. While some have very lax policies, others have a strict no technology rule. The two main reasons some professors do not allow computer use is that it can become a distraction for students and that hand written notes are better than those on the computer.

When students are hiding behind their computer screens in class, it can all too easy to shop online, scroll through Pinterest or check their email during class. When this happens, it not only distracts them, but also everyone around them who can see their screen. It can even distract the professor who sees a student who appears to be more engrossed it their screen than in the lecture.

The other reason professors do not allow technology to be used is that written notes are actually better for students success. A study done by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer in Scientific America found that notes taken by hand were more beneficial when it came to learning. Taking notes on a computer does allow students to write down more notes, but it does not lead to as much understanding and application as written notes.

Both of these above reasons are valid, but I do not think they overshadow the many benefits that come from using technology in the classroom. One of the main perks of having your laptop out is the ease of access to additional information. While this can be viewed as a distraction, I can remember countless times when professors have asked us to look up the answer to something they did not know. Also the ability to pull up and reference past articles you have read often impresses professors and contributes to class discussions rather than detracts.

Computers are also beneficial to left handed students who are forced to use small right handed desks in class. Instead of reaching across to take notes, computers allow them to comfortably take notes during class.

For me personally, I take notes by hand but I also have my laptop open next to me so that I can reference any articles I read for class. This saves me the cost of paying for printing along with the positive environmental impact of not wasting 100+ pages of paper per term.

Because there are countless positives and negatives to computer use in class, professors and students should  work together to find a solution that benefits both parties.

One solution some professors have found helpful is to have students turn off their wifi during class. if they find any student online, then the whole class loses computer privileges. Another fix would be to give professors access to software that would allow them to see what is on each student’s screen during class.

A final solution that seems to already work is to have class participation be a part of student’s final grades. This forces students to interact and contribute to class discussions. If a student chooses to shop online instead of paying attention, it will only reflect poorly on their grade. if professors and students work together to  find a way to allow computers to be used in class in a way that does not negatively impact both parties, we will all be better off for it.