In a Washington Post column, Georgetown Law Professor David Cole writes about his decision to ban laptops from his classroom. Many of the arguments are familiar. Students take notes on laptops instead of engaging the class discussion. They surf the internet or message friends. They distract others from the class. Professor Cole also adds one new twist. He apparently surveyed his students, and they have come to like the laptop-free environment.
I have never favored banning laptops, even though I have colleagues who think we should remove the Internet (or at least have it turned off) inside classrooms. I prefer to let students make their own choices about how they learn best (one administrator has suggested to me that there are possible student accommodation issues for certain learning disabilities). If they want to tune out, it’s their prerogative, and I haven’t noticed class discussions being any different than they were pre-laptop. That having been said, Professor Cole’s evidence that his students like the laptop-free class is interesting and food for thought.