Laptop, professors face-off during class


Katherine Martin

Because there is no official University policy on the use of laptops in classrooms, professors make the decision whether they will allow the use of electronics in their classes, Cathy Andreen, director of media relations said.

“Generally, the use of technology in the classroom is encouraged, but is left to the discretion of the instructor,” Andreen said. “Many of the newer classrooms on campus are designed to accommodate laptops.”

John Clark, a professor in the biology department, allows laptops in his classes and is not worried about students losing focus by playing games or spending time on Facebook.

“If the students are showing up, that’s good,” Clark said. “I realize that’s the reality of it, that [being off task] might happen.”

In Clark’s larger classes, he said he doesn’t mind when students are on their laptops, but he notices them more in smaller classes.

“If it’s not the laptop, it’s the iPod. If it’s not the iPod then it’s the iPhone or the iPad,” he said. “Something is going to be there for digital distraction.”

Lee Mallette, a freshman majoring in global business, said he doesn’t use his laptop to take notes in class. He said that most of his professors are okay with students using laptops in the classroom, but others discourage it.

“Some of my older teachers don’t like having that technology and assume you’re just on Facebook instead of taking notes,” Mallette said. “I think the majority of people are going to play on their phones if not their laptop and professors should just accept the new technology.”

Carolyn Handa, a professor in the English department, incorporates the use of computers in her class “Writing for and with Digital Media.”

This class, she said, is taught in a room with laptop access.

Handa said one benefit of allowing students to use laptops is that it helps them take notes more quickly than they could by hand.

Despite the benefits, Handa said she is sometimes concerned about students getting distracted on their computers.

“If I can tell that they’re off task when we’re having a discussion and they’re typing away, then I ask them to close the laptop,” she said.

Amelia Montague, a senior majoring in finance, doesn’t use her laptop to take notes during class and said most people stopped using computers after the lower level courses.

Montague said most of her professors don’t permit laptop use because of Facebook and other distractions.

Markita Underwood, a sophomore majoring in marketing, said she uses her laptop during lectures and all of her professors approve.

“I can’t keep up without it,” Underwood said. “I have to have my laptop with the speed that things are going now. I definitely think we need to have laptops in class.”

Underwood said she understands professors being worried about students doing other things than taking notes, but said laptops aren’t the only distraction.

“Just because you take the laptop away, it doesn’t mean a student isn’t going to zone out,” she said. “I don’t think it would necessarily prevent them from doing that because if you’re not on Facebook, you’re probably texting.”