Opinion: Electronics are responsibility of students, not teachers


My laptop comes everywhere with me. It comes with me to both work where it gets scratched, and on vacation where it gets a frightening dent. It goes online with me, from studying the history of the Republican party for a research paper and to learning how to incorporate handfasting into a wedding, because sometimes it’s hard to stop following links.

But the one place it goes every day is into the classroom, and where it connects from there is my business only. Some teachers, especially in lectures, discourage the use of laptops or check out what a student is viewing. I believe this is an invasion of privacy and ultimately unhelpful to a student’s career.

Typical laptop usage in a classroom ranges from taking notes on Word documents, OneNote lists and Powerpoint slides. However, no one can deny that sometimes it just isn’t enough. Lecture halls aren’t always the engaging, illuminating method of delivery that some believe they are. I’ve had this problem since I learned to read – I want to know more. I want to Google new case studies or take the test or quiz the teacher mentioned. If a teacher doesn’t provide the stimulation I want, I go looking for it.

From a purely economic standpoint, it’s the way I want to spend my money. The average cost of a three-hour class at K-State for an in-state student is $973.75. Divided into 28 sessions for a class meeting Tuesdays and Thursdays, where boredom surfing is more likely since the classes are longer, it’s $34.77 per class.

If I don’t feel like I’m getting roughly $35 worth of information, discussion, understanding or growth out of that day, why not seek it elsewhere? I want to see new content and viewpoints, graphics and expanded horizons. A classmate of mine used his phone a few days ago to ask a professor an ethics question after searching for more information about a certain historical figure. I remember that the most out of that entire lecture. To curtail this sort of non-traditional learning increases the likelihood that students won’t make their own personal connections to the material.

I’m not going to pretend all of my extracurricular Googling is for the greater scholastic good. I also check my social media and read the news. College students lead some of the most stressful lives in the U.S., and we continue to look down on them for taking breaks. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Academic Excellence suggests the most effective studying is done in one-hour blocks. The breaks might actually be productive if spaced efficiently during class time. The added stress of students hiding what they’re doing or worrying about the teacher seeing them doesn’t allow for a learning environment where everyone is relaxed, which only further distances students from the material.

However, this freedom means an increase in responsibility for grades. Taking charge of the information absorbed also increases the duty of sifting through and making sense of it. It’s not just a personal laptop either: checking Twitter over someone’s shoulder and taking notes at the same time can be just as distracting as reading your own feed. Former teaching assistant and education columnist Rebecca Schuman wrote in Slate Magazine she feels banning laptops creates a “13th grade classroom.”

“Policing the (otherwise non-disruptive) behavior of students further infantilizes these 18-to-22-year-olds,” Schuman said. “Already these students are hand-held through so many steps in the academic process: I check homework; I give quizzes about the syllabus to make sure they’ve actually read it … these practices also serve as giant, scholastic water wings for people who should really be swimming by now.”

If you need a 3.5 GPA and you haven’t looked up from your screen all semester, you won’t find help from the instructor very easily. Your professor has the right to bump you to the bottom of the list during packed office hours or mark you harshly on essays that cover topics from the lecture. Instructors are justified in their annoyance when they present information and their students don’t listen, then ask them to explain it later. As adults, we should be able to judge what needs our full attention and what can just stay open in the next window while we check SportsCenter. When teachers don’t receive respect, students won’t get it back. Balance your time wisely to make the most of your electronics and your learning.

Logan Falletti is a senior in mass communications. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.