It’s the summer and I’ve been jotting down some notes and reflections after one year of teaching seminary. One item occupying my mind over the last few weeks is what to do with students using laptops in the classroom.
When I taught undergraduates, I banned all electronic technologies. They were nothing but a distraction and students could take notes using old-fashioned technologies like pen and paper just as easily. I would tell students that if they couldn’t wait until after class to find out if someone had accepted their friend request, they could excuse themselves and visit the computer lab down the hall.
I didn’t think invasive and distracting misuses of laptops would be a problem at the seminary level. At the start of the semester, I mentioned that computers were to be used only for the purposes of taking notes. But as the weeks passed, I began to notice a few students using their machines for other purposes than taking notes.
I try to foster an environment that invites fruitful discussion and I value each student’s contribution. Students using laptops are usually so absorbed that they’re less likely to engage in discussion or offer comments.
So I’m thinking once again of disallowing all electronic devices (I certainly wouldn’t be alone). I do realize they can be helpful, but it seems to me that the costs to community learning outweigh the benefits.