UGA professors enforce laptop-free learning – Red and Black

On the first day of class for the spring semester, many University of Georgia students were likely greeted with a professor or two with a “no laptop” policy in their classrooms. This is part of a recent trend of professor’s taking the technology out of class.

Professors have cited distraction and poor student participation as reasons for the ban.

After several years of encouraging technology use in the classroom, journalism professor John Soloski has switched over to a technology-free learning environment last year.

Since the switch, Soloski said he has seen overall positive changes in the responses he receives from his students.

“Discussion is absolutely the key,” Soloski said. “Without the computers, there’s not this physical barrier between the professor and the students and that’s what makes having a discussion so much easier.”

Studies by Princeton University and the University of California at Los Angeles found students who take handwritten notes will generally outperform students who choose to type their notes via computer.

This study, discussed in the Wall Street Journal also found students who physically write out class notes typically appear to retain information longer, learn better and have an easier grasp on new ideas related to the subject they are learning.

Economics professor Kris McWhite, who also encourages a laptop-free learning environment has found not only is discussion an easier concept to conquer, but distractions are minimized greatly when there are no laptops around during class time.

“It’s like you become a court’s stenographer, just writing every word of the slides down,” McWhite said. “But really, it’s the big concepts being discussed that are most important, not the details on the PowerPoint.”

Browsing Facebook, playing games and surfing the web are among the many activities McWhite said he has caught his students participating in during class time.

It’s nearly impossible to monitor what every student is doing in a 300-student lecture class. It’s even more impossible to ensure students, even the ones who are trying to pay attention, aren’t getting distracted by the video someone is watching three rows ahead of them, McWhite said.

“It’s not the idea of you distracting yourself,” McWhite said. “It’s the fact that with a laptop, you are impacting and distracting the other people around you.”

While some students understand this initiative of making the classroom as distraction-free as possible, others see the policy as a hindrance.

“It’s very inconvenient,” said Amanda Johnson, a junior journalism major. “Some people learn better by using laptops for notes or pulling up links to information that relates to what we are talking about.”

Though several may agree with Johnson’s point, a study published in the Journal of Media Education in 2014 reported students spend a fifth of their time in class on their devices doing activities that are unrelated to their school work.

To combat this distraction and encourage more student participation in class, professors are looking away from increasing technology use and looking towards encouraging discussion and seminar-style courses.

“More and more faculty are coming to understand that equipment can actually get in the way of trying to help students learn,” Soloski said. “It can end up hurting them, in it’s own ironic little way, and we don’t want that.”


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