Bill MacKenty

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Student laptops in the classroom

Posted in Educational Tech Design on 15 - August 2007 at 12:00 PM (16 years ago). 209 views.

Should students be allowed to use laptops in your classroom?

Ultimately, the choice belongs to the teacher. No school should impose a policy of “yes” or “no”. Here’s some questions you should think about when you consider if students should have laptops.

1) Are the laptops in use distracting other students?

One of the most common complaints about student-laptops in the classroom is they can be distracting to other students. This can be mitigated by limiting wireless access during class, or filtering during class. It is also mitigated when every student has a laptop.

2) Are the students who are using laptops contributing their notes to a class-website, wiki, or the teacher?

Relating to the digital divide, we must ensure students with laptops are not afforded an unfair advantage over other students. If notes are uploaded and accessible to other students, everyone can share in their notes. Since the school has a public computer lab, and many computers are available in public libraries, sharing electronic notes is a nice way to help students who do not have a computer at home.

Students with laptops might contribute to a weekly notes-book that the entire class can share.

3) Are students who use laptops screwing around?

Laptops make taking notes easier (typing, editing, and sharing). However, the temptation to play games or instant mesasge may prove to great to your students. If you worry about this, you might make a general no-laptop policy. If you want to try with a few students, go ahead! When I suspect a student is up to no good, I approach them and look for a furtive gesture - a quick movement to hide a window. I also stand behind them sometimes to watch their screens.

4) Is your class is lecture-heavy (not experiential, discussion, or lab)?

Lecture classes are better suited for laptops than other types of classes. Whenever there is a large amount of didactic material, laptops can help.

No one knows your students or your teaching better than you. Try out a couple of laptops and see how it works. In some cases, it might be a perfect fit. In other cases, it might not!