'ATTRACTIVE NUISANCE'

March 9, 2010

Professors pull the plug on laptops

One recent semester, a professor tracked the grades of 17 student laptop addicts. At the end of the term, their average grade was 71 percent, "almost the same as the average for the students who didn't come at all."

By Daniel de Vise, The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

David Cole of Georgetown Law School has banned laptops for most of his students. A laptop, he argues, "is like putting on every student's desk . . . five different magazines, several television shows, some shopping opportunities and a phone . . ."

Washington Post photo

Some early attempts to ban laptops met resistance. In 2006, a group of law students at the University of Memphis complained to the American Bar Association, in vain. These days, the restriction is so common that most students take it in stride.

"I think that a professor's well within reason to ban laptops," said Cristina Cardenal, a 20-year-old Georgetown junior. "Professors aren't stupid. They know what's going on." She also happens to believe that the rule benefits students, who should know better than to "pay as much money as we do to sit in a class and read a blog."

Perhaps no college has experienced the good and bad of laptops like Bentley University in Waltham, Mass. In 1985, Bentley was the first college in the nation to require students to own portable computers. By the late 1990s, professors complained of distracted students.

In 2000, the college installed a custom-designed system that allowed professors to switch off Internet and e-mail access in their classrooms. Professors have flipped the switch "thousands of times," said Phillip Knutel, an executive director who oversees technology at Bentley.

Universities have stopped short of disabling Internet access entirely, which might create a raft of new complaints from professors who routinely ask students to go online in class.
 
 

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