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Wide Web of Diversions Gets Laptops Evicted from Lecture Halls


David Cole of Georgetown Law was among the first professors in the Washington region to ban laptops for most of his students.

Bill O'leary / The Washington Post

On a windy morning in downtown Washington, a hundred Georgetown Law students gathered in a hall for David Cole's lecture on democracy and coercion. The desks were cluttered with books, Thermoses, and half-eaten muffins.

Another item was noticeable in its absence: laptop computers. They were packed away under chairs, tucked into backpacks, powered down and forgotten.

Cole has banned laptops from his classes, compelling students to take notes the way their parents did: on paper.

A generation ago, academia embraced the laptop as the most welcome classroom innovation since the ballpoint pen. But during the past decade, it has evolved into a powerful distraction. Wireless Internet connections tempt students away from note-typing to e-mail, blogs, YouTube videos, sports scores, even online gaming--all the diversions of a home computer beamed into the classroom to compete with the professor for the student's attention.

"This is like putting on every student's desk, when you walk into class, five different magazines, several television shows, some shopping opportunities and a phone, and saying, 'Look, if your mind wanders, feel free to pick any of these up and go with it,' " Cole said.

From The Washington Post
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