Laptops top list of classroom distractions

I encourage you to read The Northerner. I encourage you to read any news source, for that matter. I think that everyone who is able should read everything they possibly can, whether it’s fact, fiction, news or opinion. But if you are reading this in a classroom where a class is being taught, I request that you close your laptop.

I have no problem with laptops. I own one myself, which I use regularly for school and recreation. They are great resources for anyone, especially students. However, I have noticed a disturbing trend of students using their laptops in class. I would like to challenge the students of Northern Kentucky University and other universities to think twice before pulling out their laptops in class.

One evening, I looked around my Law of Mass Communication class and I counted 13 laptops open. I was one of only five students who were not using a laptop. One or two students had word processing programs open, which could mean that they were typing notes, or that they were working on assignments for other classes. The rest of the students were on various websites including Facebook, Tumblr and Amazon. Typically the professor periodically walks around the classroom, and students prepare for this opportunity to quickly minimize their Internet browser, and click the tab to their word programs.

If the students who surf the web during class were the only people distracted, then it would be their problem if they were to get a poor grade in the class — this is not the case, though. I try to pay attention to the professor and take notes in class, but my eyes are drawn to the flashes of light as students near me click from one web page to the next.

In addition to distracting students around them, those who use laptops for recreation during class are putting their personal lives on display for those around them. I saw a classmate’s full name and student ID number while he registered for classes. From what I’ve seen over another student’s shoulder, I know that she has Facebook and Tumblr accounts; and I could tell you her name, as well as the names of some of her friends. I’ve seen pictures of students’ family members and friends those of which they probably would not have otherwise shared with me. I know certain students are comic book fans because I’ve watched as they look at comic-trading websites. Maybe I’m nosy, but if you don’t want to give those around you glimpses into your personal life, then don’t put it on display for them to see.

There are, of course, proponents of the use of laptops in the classroom who would disagree with me. Some professors argue that students will daydream and be otherwise distracted, with or without laptops. It has also been argued that students can type notes faster than if they were to write them. There are even professors who argue that students have used the Internet during class as a resource for valuable classroom discussion.

Out of the times that I have seen classmates using their laptops, there have been only two occasions where they have looked up something that was being discussed and shared it with the class. Most of the laptop users appear to be disengaged from the lecture and discussion around them, and thus might as well not be there at all. Also, students might be distracted regardless of the presence of laptops, but at least they aren’t distracting other students with their internalized thought or quiet doodling.

Ultimately, if you are using your laptop in the classroom, you are probably missing out on the information exchange you are paying for. If it’s not bad enough that you’re wasting your money, you’re also disrespecting your classmates and professor. Simultaneously, you’re forfeiting your privacy among your classmates. From one student to another, please do me a favor and put your laptop away during class. You’ll be doing yourself a favor too.

Editorial by Roxanna Blevins