Allow computers in the classroom

If they are respectful and responsible, students should be able to use computers during lectures.

Courtney Johnson

The beginning of this semester has carried a fresh excitement to it âÄî new people, new classes and new professors. But some things that havenâÄôt changed are some professorsâÄô classroom policies at the University of Minnesota âÄî including student computer usage in the classroom. Most college students rely on technology every day. Computers can be a valuable resource for students in the classroom âÄî banning them prevents students from taking advantage of their benefits.

Classroom policies are created for the overall protection of the learning environment in the classroom. But when professors limit computer use, they limit students in pushing their learning further.

Many University students âÄî including myself âÄî prefer taking notes on a computer. In my experience, notes are more accurate when taken on a computer rather than dealing with pens, paper and a cramped hand at the end of a 50-minute lecture. I also like to use the voice recorder that is installed on my computer. This makes it much easier to backtrack and listen to the instructorâÄôs explanation of a concept. Being in a classroom where I am not allowed to have my computer out prevents me from excelling as a student and growing as an intellectual; I take worse notes and lose a study resource.

Generally, instructors want to create a distraction-free and healthy learning environment with certain boundaries in the classroom. For the purposes of a lot of classes at the University, having a hindrance such as a computer in the middle of a class discussion is in fact a distraction. The temptation of opening up Facebook on a computer, if only for a minute, is enticing and happens more than it should.

But at the same time, having the resources of a computer and the Internet at hand can help a student instantly find material that backs up his or her argument in a discussion, making the computer less of a hindrance and more of a helpful tool. It can enhance discussion and leave students more knowledgeable. This kind of conversation is what professors at the University are striving for. ItâÄôs not always appropriate to allow computers in the classroom, but some policies need to be rethought.

As members of a community, remembering to be respectful of those that we are surrounded by is important. When students use computers in class, they lose sight of this importance and can be distracting to other students and disrespectful to the professor.

Professors and students need to work together to find a happy medium for the classroom and its policies.

Finding common ground is often a challenge. If used productively, though, computers can be beneficial to students and professors alike. Students have a responsibility to respect all in the classroom by not being disruptive. However, professors should give them the benefit of the doubt and offer them a chance to demonstrate that they can in fact be respectful.

However, this is not a privilege to be abused. Just as students request respect from a professor, they need to remember to return it.

Deciding who can make all of the decisions within a classroom is complex. Should it be the student who pays tuition or the professor who writes the syllabus? What it comes down to is creating a respectful working environment for all. Being respectful in the classroom means avoiding interfering with other studentsâÄô learning and the instructorâÄôs teaching. But if being able to have a computer out in the classroom can help learning, professors should not prevent that.