Laptops detract attention from lectures

In today’s technological world, most college students are using computers more than ever for schoolwork.

Most professors at the University allow students to bring their laptops to class to type their notes. The main problem is that distractions are only one click away.

“If someone sitting in front of me is watching a video or on Facebook, I will watch with them or see what they are looking at,” said Kristin Petersheim, sophomore in LAS.

The temptation is too great for some who have their computers with them during class, said Renee Trilling, assistant professor in English. The urge to use any other technology that students bring into class also exists. Whether it is texting or Web surfing, students will always find a way to be distracted.

Using a laptop during class can prove to be beneficial, though.

“Being able to type notes during lectures allows students to take notes faster, keep track of their notes, and they are able to share notes easier,” said Clare Crowston, associate professor in History. “Also if there are readings for the class, students can save paper by looking them up on their laptops during class instead of printing them.”

Both professors say that for the most part, students on laptops do not distract them while they are teaching in the big lecture halls, but in smaller class settings, they are able to tell if people are paying attention. Also, students with laptops are usually the minority in a lecture as most people still write their notes by hand, Trilling said.

One problem with allowing students to use laptops in big lectures is that it is easier for them to hide what they are doing, as the teacher does not have the ability to have direct contact with them, Crowston said.

“The more disconnected students are from the lecture, the more bored they become, which allows for distractions to come in,” she said.

Students may also be more prone to distractions depending on how interested they are in the course material.

“If the class is easy or a Gen-Ed, it is no big deal (for students to be distracted), but people should be able to use their own discretion and be respectful towards those around them,” Petersheim said. “That is the ideal.”

It is difficult for teachers to do anything to prohibit students from going onto their e-mail or Facebook, unless they forbid students from bringing their laptops to class.

“We can’t see through peoples’ computer screens, but we can see the expression on their faces when they are not paying attention,” Crowston said. “Students have to be mature enough to not distract others around them.”

For the most part, allowing laptops in lectures is more beneficial than not allowing them as long as students are responsible, Trilling said.

“Typing notes on the computer is more effective and helpful with learning,” she said. “Notes are easily accessible and it is a more convenient way to take down the flow of information that comes during lecture.”