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College classroom laptop use stirs debate

Some educators call devices distracting

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The laptop computer might seem to be a helpful classroom tool for student note-taking or research, but nationally and locally, college professors have mixed opinions about whether they should be permitted.

Augusta State University students Terra Black (left) and Lyston Skerritt use their laptops in Dr. Debbie Van Tuyll's media law class. Some college educators consider laptop use in the classroom a distraction.   Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Augusta State University students Terra Black (left) and Lyston Skerritt use their laptops in Dr. Debbie Van Tuyll's media law class. Some college educators consider laptop use in the classroom a distraction.

"I'm all for laptops ... but not in class," said Dr. Andrew Geyer, an assistant professor of English at the University of South Carolina Aiken who doesn't allow electronic devices to be used in his classroom. "Unfortunately, I have found that the lure of these distractions is too great for many students to resist. Instead of being actively engaged in classroom activities, too many students are lost in cyberspace."

Dr. Debbie Van Tuyll, a professor at Augusta State University, said that as long as a student's laptop use isn't distracting she doesn't object.

"Laptops can be both a distraction and a helpful aid," she said. "It depends on how students use them."

Ultimately, she said, "My students are adults. If they wish to misuse their class time, they're the ones who will have to suffer the consequences."

NATIONALLY, A GROWING number of faculty are banning laptops from classrooms because they're perceived as a distraction for students, according to the Education Resources Information Center, which points to research that shows students spend a lot of time multitasking.

According to a recent article in The Washington Post, laptops have been banned in classrooms at George Washington University, American University, College of William and Mary, and the University of Virginia.

Stephanie Myers, an ASU chemistry professor, has her own laptop policy.

"My syllabus says if you use a laptop you have to sit in the back row," she said.

The idea is to prevent students from sitting behind someone with a laptop because that could cause them to get distracted by looking at the screen.

Myers said she has seen student use of laptops grow through the years and knows they're not always aiding classroom work. She said she recently caught a student on CNN's Web site while in her class.

"Of course, I see them texting in class, too," she said. "So that's just as bad."

She said some students have tablet computers that lay flat, and, "that's been fairly successful."

ASU SENIOR David Garnett, who brings a laptop on campus but puts it away when class starts, said he thinks the use of such a device should be dependent on its appropriateness for the subject being taught. He said a ban for all classes would be going too far, adding that, "If somebody's using one, it's never distracted me."

Brian Parr, an assistant professor in USC Aiken's Department of Exercise and Sports Science, said laptop use in his classes is rare but is allowed, except during exams: "The potential for cheating is just too great.

"I did have a student who used his smart phone to do a Google search for information during an exam once," he said. "I noticed, and he did not pass the exam."

Charmaine E. Wilson, a communications professor at USC Aiken, doesn't ban laptops.

"I hope (students) learn early on that all behavior communicates and that using cell phones and laptops in class can send a message that they don't want to send," she said.

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Cadence
219
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Cadence 03/26/10 - 07:41 am
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0
As a student I know that some

As a student I know that some people with laptops in class are looking at Facebook, surfing the net, playing games, etc. They are the very ones who will complain about the professor and say it isn't their fault when they fail. I would like to see them banned completely.

Dudeness
1546
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Dudeness 03/26/10 - 07:55 am
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I've considered bringing my

I've considered bringing my laptop to class and like to have the option. I understand some are distracted, but I like the one teacher's idea of having those with laptops sit in the back so as not to distract others. My hands hurt if I have to write a lot, so I've been thinking strongly about bringing a laptop to take notes on.

jack
10
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jack 03/26/10 - 10:43 am
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The professor who says

The professor who says students are adults, well, yea and no. Legally, Freshmen and Juniors are legally adults (over 18 years old), but mentally are still far from being adults. that's like saying an 18 year old in high school is an adult, mentally, which we know is not accurate. As a former professor of Freshmen and Jniors, I say ban the lap tops until their junior year as they have matured more and are serious about graduating..

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 03/26/10 - 02:03 pm
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I used a tape recorder and

I used a tape recorder and typed my notes out later. Graduated with a 3.9. Helped me tremendously.

fireshaper
0
Points
fireshaper 03/26/10 - 09:33 pm
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0
As a college student I have

As a college student I have used laptops in classes and had them be tremendously useful, but I've also sat behind people with them and seen them playing games while they highlight in the book sitting beside them. I'm not in favor of laptop being banned, but there are some classes that a laptop is just not needed in. I do take offense when a professor tells me that I cannot use a laptop in their class, though; I paid to take their class, paid for the book, and am giving up my time to come to their class, I should be able to use a laptop if I desire.

@jack You can't generalize like that, there are some Freshmen and *Sophomores* that have either started school late or have returned to school and are older than the just-out-of-highschool students.

KSL
143947
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KSL 03/26/10 - 10:25 pm
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"I paid to take their class,

"I paid to take their class, paid for the book, and am giving up my time to come to their class, I should be able to use a laptop if I desire."
fireshaper
Friday, Mar. 26 10:33 PM

Does anyone besides me find this statement to be very odd? If he is in class, he should be there to learn and not consider it a taking of his time. Could it be he's getting a free education? If he or his parents are paying, he isn't "giving up his time."

KSL
143947
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KSL 03/26/10 - 10:27 pm
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I fear for our future!

I fear for our future!

corgimom
38479
Points
corgimom 03/27/10 - 05:31 pm
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KSL, yes, that is the posting

KSL, yes, that is the posting of an immature, self-absorbed, "Its all about MEEEEEEEE" person. "Giving up my time." Wait till he takes THAT attitude to his employer. Wait until his employer dictates to him how and what he will do at his workplace.

Hope his college courses include "How to Handle Being Fired".

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