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By: Sabrina Bene

Laptops have become the norm in lecture halls as more students bring them to take notes in class. Some professors believe that they have become a distraction rather than a tool to help students learn. I believe that despite this, electronics supply students with unlimited possibilities to enhance their learning experience in lecture. With technology constantly advancing, students are able to increase the amount of information obtained, and apply it in various ways.

The restriction of electronics would have more negative effects than positive. A laptop allows students to follow along with what the professor is saying, while allowing them to quickly jot down important information. Allowing laptops in lectures allows the student to clarify information that may have been confusing. Students are able to follow along with visual data provided by the professor, and are given a chance to interact with the material. For example, the program “TopHat,” which has been introduced in select classes on campus, requires students to bring their laptops to lecture.

If a student does not own a laptop for financial reasons the program provides them with one to follow along. Programs such as TopHat create a positive learning environment for all students and enhance the students’ abilities to clearly understand what is being taught. Electronics also supply students with quick access to the internet where a student can follow along with a PowerPoint on their own monitor, while also searching anything they may need clarification on. A student can quickly google words or phrases they may not understand if they feel uncomfortable asking in lecture.

Despite these advantages, laptops can also cause distractions. While in lecture many students have a bad habit of checking Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, disregarding how distracting this can be for others. This is also detrimental for the person using social media, as it is nearly impossible to browse Facebook while focusing on lecture as well. To reduce the negative impact of laptops rules can be put in place to minimize distractions. For example, students who want to bring laptops can sit at the back of the lecture hall to avoid disturbing others. Additionally, laptops can be banned from tutorials so that more students are able to fully pay attention to what is being discussed. Professors can also try to supply programs like ‘TopHat” where the lecture becomes more interactive, encouraging the student to pay attention rather than browse social media.

It is also important that we accommodate electronics in lecture as they can make material more accessible for students with disabilities.

For example, Pear Note on MacBooks and One Note on PCs allows students with processing disabilities to synchronize information by recording lectures while taking notes. The student can then go through their notes, highlight a concept they didn’t understand in the lecture, and the software repeats the material from that point in time. This helps to increase comprehension and the quality of notes. If laptops were to be banned entirely with the exception of students with disabilities, then they could be uncomfortably singled out.

The use of electronics in the classroom can have both negative and positive effects. To eliminate the negatives professors should consider if the course requires electronics or if the material is largely verbal or written. Professors should also consider how their decisions affect students with disabilities and decide on the most appropriate way to accommodate them, creating a positive environment for all students. Through my own experience I find that the use of electronics can be extremely helpful, as it provides access to all lecture material that you can follow while listening to the lecturer. While I do believe that laptops are a distraction, I do not believe they should be banned because the positives outweigh the negatives.

Photo Credit: Brett Jordan

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