Ira Socol has a great post on his blog (SpEdChange) titled Humiliation and the modern professor, in which he speaks to the issue of students bringing laptops to the classroom. Some professors have banned laptops from their classes (I personally know a couple who would like to, and at least one who has). It seems to me, that Ira makes a great case for why students should be allowed to bring laptops into the classroom. Read his post to find out why… On a more personal note, I have loved that my students bring laptops to my classes. This despite the knowing that they are playing Scraboulous and/or checking email some of the time. But I can’t really complain about this since I doodled (and otherwise goofed-off) during class hours through my extended stint as a student (from middle school, that is about as far back as I can remember, to grad school). In fact I have gotten in trouble about my doodling even after becoming a professor. [Proof of my time-wasting ways can be found here.]
What I have found though is that having students with their laptops with wireless internet access, enriches my classes in ways I could not have imagined. More often than not, I find students conducting Google searches, tracking down articles, nailing down obscure facts, in ways that directly connect to what is being discussed in class. My students often share what they have found with me and the other class-participants.
I see no reason to be threatened by this, in fact I believe that this enhances student engagement with the ideas, and that is always a good thing.
The fact of the matter is that students can goof off even when there is no technology (as I did and continue to do so at meetings) when the topics being discussed appear irrelevant and/or boring. This just raises the bar for us as instructors, pushing us to try harder to make our classes interesting, challenging and engaging.