Laptop: endangered species?

Ashley Couillard examines laptop use in the classrooms of Dawson and determines the winner in the on-going battle between students & teachers

Laptops are   a great innovation for college students; they’ve become part of us. They allow us to have easy internet access at school and cafés. We can update our Facebook pages, chat with our friends, play games and use it for school. Now, what’s the point of bringing a laptop to school if most teachers ban them? Teachers find them distracting to their lectures and the students have a hard time paying attention. A study in Ottawa has proven that “the students with laptops earned an average grade of five percent lower than those who didn’t bring their computers,”  CanWest News Service reported (February 1, 2007). 

For some teachers, laptops in class are distracting. “I’m split about having laptops in class,” said Korbert Matthews, a Cinema Video Communications teacher. He complains that they make noise and make students anti-social if they aren’t using the laptop for school purposes. When a student is on their laptop, they’re not participating in class. They’re more engaged with the person with whom they’re chatting or they’re checking out their friend’s new pictures on Facebook or even watching YouTube videos. Their mind isn’t on what’s going on in front of the class, but more or less what’s going on behind the screen. 

For the classes that have participation marks, lap-top use can cause a student to lose a certain percentage because they’re shut off from what’s going on in class. However, “it’d be foolish to ban them because in this generation, they are tools; students use them for note taking,” Matthews said. Students just need to use them wisely and need to stay engaged with what’s going on in class. Matthews contends that if a   student was caught not paying attention to the class but enjoying what’s going on with his/her laptop, they’d be talked to at the end of class and would be reminded of how shut off they are from the rest of the class.

The internet has purely become an addiction to teenagers. Whether we have to harvest our plants on Farmville, feed our fish on Happy Aquarium or we just have to write back on our friends’ wall,  we’re dependent on them. The   Ottawa study showed that “Checking e-mail during lectures was the most common distraction; 81 per cent admitted to this transgression    compared to 68 per cent reporting that they used instant messaging. Forty-three per cent    reported surfing the Internet, while 25 per cent reported playing games.” 

Nevertheless, most students prefer having a  laptop in class. “It’s so much easier to take notes with. Notes come out much neater and can be edited at any time if needed, ” second semester Child Studies student Vanessa Liberatore agrees with this. 

“Personally, I like using my laptop because I can type faster than I can write and I don’t even have to look down at the key board, so if a teacher is going through a PowerPoint or a lecture very quickly I can keep up, put more   detail into my notes and not miss something important,” Liberatore said.

“Laptops are great to have in class, useful for note taking, but a disadvantage is that they can serve as a  distraction,” said Kayla Moore, a second semester Child Studies student, “Many students would much rather be on Facebook rather than listening to their teachers.”

 The facts seem to suggest that if a student takes notes effectively,   listens to the lectures and has good grades, it shouldn’t be a problem. If students want to waste their time playing games or being on Facebook and end up having a failing grade, it’s their fault and not the teachers.  

 “I understand that some teachers don’t allow them because they think students are going to be on Facebook but it’s stupid for the people who actually want to write notes and those other students ruin it for the others,” Julia Di Tella, a second semester Psychology student said. 

Laptops are just a better and faster way to take notes. In most cases, it helps the student out rather than using pen and paper during fast lectures. Our generation is so used to having electronics around us constantly that when the opportunity comes, we don’t think twice about using it. 

Laptops don’t have to be all negative. They can also come in handy when a teacher wants to know a definition of a word or who directed a certain movie. The     students with the laptops have easy  access to the internet and can find out that information in a second. If a    student sent an assignment to their teacher, and the teacher they didn’t receive it, a student with a laptop can open their email and show them that it was sent and not lose marks.

Our whole world revolves around technology and most teenagers are addicted to the internet. They can’t help but go and check their emails every five minutes. It just comes naturally when a computer’s around. A Cranfield School of Management survey   revealed that “over 60% of the respondents admitted to being ‘very’ or ‘quite’ addicted to the internet.” The report also revealed that “students spend, on average, 1-2 hours a day on social network sites.” 

This kind of reaction indicates that students must learn how to manage themselves with their laptops in class. They should pay   attention when the teacher is speaking and go on the internet when they have their own free time. If students overuse the privilege of  having laptops in class and go on the internet when they aren’t supposed to, they’re     spoiling things for other students who actually pay attention as they are supposed to.

In the end, it’s up to the teachers to make the decision. Laptops in class can have a negative or positive effect on a student       depending on their willingness to learn. They’re a great tool but they can also backfire on us if we get too caught up on                 Network surfing. 


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