Banning electronics doesn’t guarantee engagement

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If a student is so easily distracted by their phones or laptops in class, maybe the change should be in the teaching, not the electronics.

A majority of the reasoning for banning electronics in the classroom makes sense. Professors should have a right to make the call on how their lectures are run. Full engagement with the instructor isn’t an unfair standard of respect to expect from their students.

Many students may retain more information when they’re writing out their notes rather than typing them. Having one class that pushes them to put away their laptops in exchange for a pen and a paper may be exactly what some need to truly engage with a professor and their material.

That being said, an outright ban assumes that having a laptop open signifies that a student doesn’t value their education, or is completely disconnected from the classroom. 

Electronics can be used to look up useful information on the spot, keep up with the fast pace of a lecture or share information quickly with peers or profs.

In many ways, they add to a classroom rather than take away — these same benefits are drilled into students when schools install computers, projectors, clickers and smart boards into classrooms.

It’s entirely possible for a student to be absorbed in the class while taking notes on a laptop. Besides, recognizing differences in learning across disciplines is much more effective than an outright ban. Encouragement to hand-write notes in disciplines like Mathematics or Engineering — where classes are often based on facts or formulas rather than discussion as in the Humanities — seems much more reasonable.

But when a student opts to scroll through Twitter or open Facebook, their passivity is an indicator of a lack of engagement with their education — a problem banning technology fails to address.

A few students who have their laptops open for playing games, watching television , online shopping or social media distract others. However, a few inconsiderate students shouldn’t be the reason for banning what can be useful tools of education.

While yes, it’s a student’s responsibility to be considerate of the professor and those around them, the onus also falls on the instructor and the department to ensure they’re doing all they can to present a curriculum that genuinely engages students.

Perhaps professors would benefit from shining the light on the reason behind disengagement among their students, rather than dimming all their screens.

— Journal Editorial Board

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