In fact, I wrote that article while I was supposed to be teaching

I’m just kidding! I wrote this article on the plane to Texas to visit my brother, like a normal person. But today’s article in Slate is about how although laptops have been shown to disrupt the learning environment in college, it’s both too late to ban them (students don’t learn to handwrite anymore! What are they supposed to do?) and actually a bad idea, for both financial and practical reasons. I also got to share the “fuckgate ’08” story with the world at large.

9 thoughts on “In fact, I wrote that article while I was supposed to be teaching

  1. Thank you so much for this! It’s exactly the point I made in a recent job interview for a TT faculty position. At the time I thought it was an act of bravery, because I knew from their syllabi that other faculty in the department ban laptops from the classroom. Guess what. I got the job. I think I am going to use Dan Rockemore’s and your pieces in my first classes this fall. Student’s will act as maturely as we treat them. They may not always make the best decisions, but they made them themselves and learn how to deal with the consequences. Isn’t that something all those celebrities preach at commencement? Might as well start doing it as fresh(wo)men …


  2. I used a laptop in almost every class for 4 years of undergrad. It was a great help in classes where I was genuinely interested – I captured a lot more detail in both Intro to Artificial Intelligence and History of Heresy and Witchcraft.

    However, it was something of a distraction in dry lecture classes or where the teacher was not effective or where I just wasn’t very interested. There was no wi-fi in the dark ages, so I played Solitaire and Breakout all through Data Structures and did my Greek homework in Roman History. If my laptop were banned, the argument goes that I would have paid closer attention and taken better notes. It seems more likely that I would have drawn doodles and written snide remarks and done my Greek homework on paper….

    The pendulum seems to swing back and forth on such things. Laptops in the classroom! Technology will improve education! or Distractions! Laptops are ruining education! They can be an asset. They can be a hindrance. I’ll even accept that they a distraction for more people than they assist. But, like anything else, it comes down on the student to make that choice. Anyone who has had an art student in his or her class knows that pen and paper can be a distraction too.

    The university ought to give their students the knowledge they need to make good decisions, but a professor can’t learn for her students. Handing out or taking away laptops and tablets won’t change that. Besides, in a classroom without laptops, they’ll just Facebook on their phones.


  3. Sure. And the faculty are just as bad as freshmen. Sit in the back of any colloquium and you’ll see less Facebook and gaming, but every bit as much off-task behavior as in Required 101.


  4. I’m all for laptops in the classroom and students learning to police themselves. (You were great in your interview btw). Plus letting the class become interactive space makes for good learning environment.

    There’s another good reason for allowing everyone to use laptops if they want. A number of students with disabilities find it easier to take notes on computer than by handwriting and their laptops are part of what’s considered ADA reasonable accommodation. If I were to ban laptops, those students would have to explain to other students why they were were allowed.


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