Laptops: Distraction or learning aid in class?

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So, it looks like MacBooks are “in.” Every classroom has the handful of students that have them resolutely centered on their desks. But the person sitting behind you probably doesn’t think it’s used to benefit your academic experience.

MacBooks aren’t the only perpetrators; this academic abandon seems pretty universal for the entire I-have-a-laptop-to-take-notes crowd, which is a good portion of our generation. It looks like one in every five is actually doing something productive, which productivity may or may not have anything to do with the class.

The point is: Gross use of technology does little to actually aid in the educative process.

There really isn’t much to be done about it aside from a collective overhaul. After all, surfing the web during class time is only a more advanced (and much more distracting) version of doodling in a notebook. We couldn’t very well ban the use of laptops in classes, but there is something inherently more distracting (and destructive) in laptop abuse than sketching stick figures. Something has to be
done, but it seems the only effective cure is nothing short of a generational wake-up call.

They call us “digital natives,” the twenty-somethings and younger who grew up or came of age in this digital epoch. The use of laptops in the classroom is a symptom of this injurious rewiring. We’ve become so accustomed to a bombardment of technology we can’t even sit through a class without checking cyberspace, a friend, or downloading the latest Lady Gaga video.

We’ve collectively reprogrammed ourselves to demand distractions. Like a virus, we’ve contracted attention deficit disorders that require our constant diversion from everything, including our education and often human interaction.

Sly web-users are not so different from the guy in the back corner of the class who has his Skullcandy slung modishly over his ear with his Ipod turned up just a little too loud and simply doesn’t care. Does anybody else remember how much we’re paying a semester for this education? Forget the costs, does anyone remember that we’re the future of civilization? We’re techno-zombies avoiding responsibility by absorbing ourselves in trivial web-communities while we should be bettering ourselves and furthering our education.

If your laptop is set out on your desk so you can zone out of the lecture and do anything other than better the educational experience, then do our generation a favor and turn it off, and place it carefully into your backpack. We may not go down as the dumbest generation yet.