Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Professors banning laptops

Hot of the presses of MSN today: “More professors ban laptops in class: Attempt to end computer distractions; rekindle discussion.” From the article:

PHILADELPHIA – As the professor lectured on the law, the student wore a poker face. But that was probably because, under the guise of taking notes on his laptop, the student actually was playing poker — online, using the school’s wireless Internet connection.

The scenario is not uncommon in today’s college classrooms, and some instructors want it stopped. So they have done the unthinkable — banned laptops.

This article is really not a big surprise to me, MANY professors in higher education oppose letting students use laptops during class. In a college of business close to where I live, professors have actually said, “There is no way our students can have laptops unless I have a way to control their screens and lock them down when I want to during my lecture.”

Hmmmm. Flashback to my post from January, “The Synchronous Non-interactive Fallacy:”

Why do so many college professors suffer under the delusion that students should want to come to class when their instructor drones on and on in lecture, and does not provide opportunities for interaction?!

There is nothing wrong with lecturing, or “sitting and getting,” as long as we do it in moderation in schools. This is why we need more use of hybrid instructional modalities, especially in higher education. When an instructor want to use a synchronous non-interactive teaching modality, that is fine in moderation– but they should use podcasts if the lecture goes longer than 20 minutes!

What would I do if a professor announced that laptops were banned his his/her class? Simple. I would drop the class and find another professor. These students in Philadelphia should do the same. The following solution some professors have found is RIDICULOUS and should be rejected by the students who are most likely paying ridiculously exorbitant fees to learn at their university:

One remedy instructors have, he [Paul Engelking, a chemistry professor at the University of Oregon] said, is to establish penalties for Web surfing, codify them in a course syllabus, and then enforce them.

It’s an educational marketplace out there, folks. When students vote with their feet, university administrators tend to pay attention.

Thanks to AHF for this link! 🙂



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4 responses to “Professors banning laptops”

  1. Ewan McIntosh Avatar

    In Bob Sprankle’s latest podcsat the statistic was that the brain can cope with 500 words a minute, with a fast speaking human speaking only 150. That means that there are 350 words to be typed during lectures to stretch our minds. Now that STILL leaves room for IM

  2. Linda Avatar

    I have reached the point in my life that I can type faster than I can write. I also have better notes when I am done and don’t have the effort to “redo” them later.

    If someone pays for a class and does not want to take advantage of the learning, then that is their problem (as long as they don’t bother others, same for the student that skips class).

    I wouldn’t be there long if there was a no laptop policy!

  3. Cheryl Oakes Avatar

    Wes, your podcast from Dr. Elizabeth Swenson, #42 at Moving at the Speed of Creativity, was very moving and visionary!(I’ve listened to this 3 times.) She was the one quoted that we( our brains) can “cope” with 500 wpm, people speak at 150 wpm, so why aren’t we expecting students to blog and listen and reflect at the same time. I would consider this a way to have active “take aways” from lectures. Also, Darren Kuropatwa has a beautifully simple wiki describing how to be a “hall of fame” scribe. We can do this, we can make our instruction more interactive, engaging and dare I say meaningful. (

  4. Barry Dahl Avatar

    Wes, I love this stuff…in a “isn’t it sad what the world is coming to” sort of way. Therefore, I guess I don’t love it at all. I was a student in higher ed for 8 years, and now I have worked in higher ed for about 22 years. Early on in my career I often commented that higher ed was an interesting sphere to study because it primarily consisted of a bunch of highly educated people doing incredibly stupid things, over and over and over….

    Then about five years ago I became an administrator and I quit saying those things, but the more stories I read like this one tell me that it is now more true than ever. As a collective group, we are our own worst enemies. BD