Madeline Twomey: Banning laptops hurts the environment

As a self-proclaimed hippie – my first concert was Woodstock ’99 – my daily routine includes squeezing my toothpaste with a clothespin to make sure I get the last toothbrush’s worth, and perpetually refusing bags at CVS, even before the fee. In short: I try to live a green life.

So when I walked into one of my classes this semester, I was appalled to find out the professor had a “no laptop” policy in our discussion section, and we were subsequently required to print out three or four lengthy articles each week.

Despite the professor’s good intentions, I see the decision to force students to forgo their computers and embrace their printers as a failed answer to the question of the distracting nature of laptops in classrooms.

We are in the midst of a post-Copenhagen green revolution. Printing articles for class that weekly total 30 pages of paper is disconcerting while our world’s leaders face major decisions regarding environmental policy. My parents taught me to be responsible and that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. How is this helping the green movement?

Besides the environmental concerns, there is also an economic problem. Using statistics from the Hewlett-Packard Web site, at this rate I would go through five black ink-cartridges throughout the semester, costing me about $75. And that’s just for one of six classes I’m taking this semester. If I were to print the articles at Gelman, for 9 cents a page, I would spend about $45 by May.

About two weeks ago, Apple and Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad, a touch-screen tablet-computer that looks frighteningly like an enlarged iPhone. Despite its possibly changing the way future college students read textbooks (along with Amazon’s Kindle), this product reminds us what technology is for. Intel’s “Generations” Super Bowl commercial depicted the history of the computer, and illustrated that, in 1993, “electronic-mail” was still a new idea. What is technology for, if not to push limits and advance the way we live? Our college experience differs so very much from our parents’, who had to fiddle with typewriters and white-out with every wrong stroke. Today, and thanks to Google as well, we have the world at our fingertips. We have mastered tabbed-browsing and multi-tasking. It is time professors embrace the advantages we have and the skills we can offer.

Though I can admit to the lure of Facebook in the middle of a political science lecture, banning laptops does not teach students to be more responsible. In the eyes of the law, we’re adults. We can have our own credit cards, vote for our next president and serve jury duty or jail time. It is a student’s individual choice to pay attention – or not – in class. For the amount of money we pay to go here, it is in our best interest to log out of our e-mail. But whether we chose to be the diligent student or finish a crossword puzzle, it is our freedom to make that decision. When midterms roll around and we’re missing a days’ worth of notes, we suffer the consequences.

Banning laptops is not the answer to the distractions they offer, especially when it is at the expense of green efforts and students’ money. Let us be adults and make our own decisions, both in the classroom and in our lifestyle choices. We will accept the challenge and maintain our GPAs even with our computers in front of us. We may even tweet about it afterward.

The writer is a junior majoring in political communications.

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