No laptop in the classroom equals less distraction, more work

I have a confession. Last semester, I visited Facebook during class. I shopped for shoes, checked my email and even chatted with a sibling (while she was at work in Florida). Of course, I occasionally took notes and even looked up from time to time so that I would appear attentive. I am not the only one. I can see that my classmates are equally distracted with email and Facebook; one even designs t-shirts during Torts.

I have done none of these things this semester. Not because I suddenly gained willpower, however, but because I reverted to the Stone Age. With only pen, paper and a book in front of me, the distractions are minimal. I’ve noticed more hand-note takers this semester as well, as grades must have shown that more attention and less web-surfing are in order.

Our professors share my disdain for technology in class. Professor C. expressed her reluctance to allow computers in class because she feels students interact less. However, she allows them. Professor B. outlawed all technology completely. He even seems a little wary of mechanical pencils. In that class, from the beginning, I paid better attention, took better notes and generally understood the material better from the start. Others, however, seem to take pleasure from catching students online and off guard.

Manual note taking has become tedious, however. I have stacks of handwritten pages to type so that I can add them to my outline. In Professor B.’s class, massive shuffling noises disrupt the flow of discussion when he asks questions pertaining to previous material (which is often). A simple electronic search would find us all with the right information with just a click should computers be copasetic.

So, looking at this stack, do I return to my trusty digital notes? Or, should I continue the semester with handwritten scribbles and smudges? Are Professors B. and C. right in their conclusion that computers equal distracted, and therefore less educated, students? I do think fewer computers would make for livelier debate because more students would actually know what was happening. A strict ban on laptops in the classroom, or denial of Internet access during class would get the job done. Although an administrative ban could force all of us to engage more, my guess is that administrators won’t ever be so bold. It may be up to us to act like adults and refrain from the ceaseless wonders found online.

However, a few more five-minute silences after a professor asks a question and receives no response might just cause them to take grassroots action to give our laptops the boot.

By Merideth Kimble a first-year student at the University of San Diego School of Law and columnist for The National Jurist.