The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 4th, 2015
The moment of truth for me came in the
spring 2013 semester. I looked out at my visual-communication class and
saw a group of six students transfixed by the blue glow of a video on
one of their computers, and decided I was done allowing laptops in my
large lecture class. "Done" might be putting it mildly. Although I am an
engaging lecturer, I could not compete with Facebook and YouTube, and I
was tired of trying.
The next semester I told students they would have to take notes on paper. Period.
I knew that eliminating laptops in my classroom would reduce distractions. Research
has shown that when students use their laptops to "multitask" during
class, they don’t retain as much of the lecture. But I also had a
theory, based on my college experience from the dark ages—the 70s, aka,
before PowerPoint—that students would process lectures more effectively
if they took notes on paper. When students took notes on laptops they
barely looked up from their computers, so intent were they on
transcribing every word I said. Back in my day, if a professor’s
lectures were reasonably well organized, I could take notes in outline
format. I had to listen for the key points and subpoints.