Computers in The Classroom?

I am pondering banning laptops and tablets from my classroom. The upsides of this are obvious: avoiding the distractions that come with Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and all the other wonderful things the internet has to offer. Research rather unambiguously shows that small distractions (such as checking e-mail) lead to considerable drops in levels of concentration and abilities to retain information. I am quite sure my classes are boring at times but students will have to find a way to deal with that without escaping to the Web’s temptations.

Yet the downsides of banning laptops and tablets are also considerable. I am less worried about note-taking (there is an alternative!) but my classes rely on lots of readings that are made available electronically. Banning laptops would force my students to print these materials, which rather defeats the purpose.

I would love to learn from readers’ experiences (both from students and faculty). Any feedback on bans? Are there policies that fall short of banning but still sufficiently discourage the web’s trappings? I wish my university had a possibility for locally turning off the wireless network but that does not seem to exist.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

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Erik Voeten

Erik Voeten is the Peter F. Krogh associate professor of geopolitics and global justice at Georgetown University.