Last semester, I noticed a significant increase in the number of students bringing laptops to class. I know these hurt performance (see Clayton’s post for the empirical data).
I toyed with the notion of banning laptops, but I know there are some students who can and do only bring their laptops to class for notes. So I came up with the following idea, and I’m going to test it out this semester.
The basic idea is to require students to upload their notes on the days they bring the laptop to class. Here’s what I’m pasting into all of my syllabi.
I will make note of each laptop user when I take attendance. If you bring your laptop to class, then you are required to upload your notes to the course dropbox (or email them to me if the dropbox is unavailable) – immediately after class. Failure to do so will result in an absence.
Why the Policy?
Recent studies suggest that students who bring laptops to class perform worse (on average) than their non-laptop using peers, and are much less likely to pay attention in class. Laptops can also be a distraction for other students.
One increasingly popular option is to ban laptops in the classroom, but I want a laptop policy that accommodates the students who can efficiently use a laptop in class for note taking.
Students who are genuinely using laptops to take a large amount of notes, so many that it would be laborious to transcribe handwritten notes to a computer outside of class, should be allowed to use their laptops in class.
This requirement has the virtue of not prohibiting laptops for students who are genuinely using the laptops for course purposes.
Bonus: It also helps me be a better teacher. I’ll get a nice sample of what students take down as notes – this helps me ascertain whether what I think is important is getting across to students.
So, that’s the new policy. I’m testing it out this semester. We’ll see how it goes.