A few of my teachers here at University don’t allow us the use of laptops in classroom, as they are «disturbing, to both you and your classmates. » They say that laptops are too often used to distract ourselves from the subject at hand. They fear that they will lose everyone’s attention and focus if a screen other than theirs is turned on. They feel the same way with cellphones, almost implying that they are evil tools that are on the verge of taking over our minds and education.
That is bullsh… not true.
If integrated properly in a classroom, laptops and cellphones are the best thing that ever happened to you. Sure, if you only put up a PowerPoint up front and read it, you may feel that your students aren’t listening because they are looking at their laptop. That’s not the laptop’s fault. It’s yours. If the laptop wasn’t in front of them, they’d still not be listening; they’d be doodling or thinking and talking about their weekend or reading articles for tomorrow or …
What you have to understand is that you cannot simply expect students to listen in a class where you are reading aloud what was written in a book that you put on a PowerPoint. Even that sentence evokes a boring experience, imagine sitting through 3 hours of it!
Instead of a PowerPoint filled with every single thing that you are going to mention, use applications and programs like Prezi which will allow you to put in key concepts and keep the students’ attention alive by making the concepts move around and keep their brain working by showing tangible links between the concepts.
They will follow your teaching with their laptop. They will watch the Prezi, or look at the video, or take notes in that document along with you.
You will have their attention.
If the task is interesting enough, they will not steer in another direction because they have a laptop. They will focus, they will like it and they will laugh. Technology will simply come to aid in making your life easier, freeing your hands so you can walk around the class, even make gestures, instead of standing still hidden behind your own computer to show a boring, bland presentation of something they have already read. Using fun applications and not writing everything down will allow you to feel more secure about the fact that you are going to put this class’ notes on the portal: they will still come to class, listen to you and even… enjoy it.
They will improve their organizing skills, as they will be putting notes in a document that was not built by them but that will be used for their own use. They have to make it simple, effective, and personalized. They will improve their organizing skills in another way because they will need to keep their folders organized, they files clean and the computer free of malwares. Furthermore, there will be no more problems of handwriting that cannot be read, papers that were lost, and team mates who are sick: everything is at hand, put on the classroom’s website, or in the teams’ email folder and they are crystal clear when it comes to understanding how the document is made and what is written in it.
I am pro-computers.
As you have guessed, I am strongly for allowing students to have their computers in class. Of course, you will need to adapt your teaching, as you would with any tool, because that tool allows for freedom of students. If you are not using it properly, if you are boring and if you do not integrate it in your teaching, that computer will be a distraction. However, it is also a window to the world of organized note taking, easy project researches, dictionaries and information.