Alyssa Rosenthal: Laptop use causes a distraction in class

The sea of flickering screens and glowing apples in lecture halls post figurative neon signs on every student’s forehead that read: “I’m not listening.”

The lack of attention is visible to my professors, and the upset looks on their faces show they understand they’ve lost student focus in favor of the freshest news on Beyoncé’s bundle of joy or a stream of photos from last weekend’s shenanigans.

But I want to focus on class, and I don’t quite understand why I am the only one who feels this way.

Laptops act as harmful distractions to both their users and those around them, during the otherwise simple task of listening during class.

A 2003 study conducted at Stanford University found that those who had laptops open in lectures took in significantly less material than those taking notes by hand. The clickety clack of the keyboard takes away from in-class material when boredom or curiosity lure us into our e-mail inboxes, or, a professor’s worst nightmare – Facebook.

In a 2006 study, Carrie B. Fried of Winona State University found that laptop usage represents 64 percent of all distractions. That means that all those conventional classroom distractions hardly account for even half of the real interruptions.

A huge majority – 81 percent – of students with open laptops in Fried’s study checked their e-mail accounts at least once during lectures.

It’s a sad world we live in when we can’t sit in a class for an hour and 15 minutes without checking our e-mail multiple times. Will our e-mail not exist if we wait a little longer?

I commonly end up sitting in the front row, simply because I can’t handle all the clicking on surrounding keyboards.

I now understand why a horse wears blinders.

The generations before us had no trouble using pens to take notes, and in a classroom setting, neither should we. I understand the benefits that computers, and particularly the Internet, provide for students. But the ever-distracting laptop still has no place when students use computers more for surfing than notetaking.

It is time, in this case, to go back to basics. Our generation jumped into the information age too quickly, and now we must take the baby steps back to a place where balance between academia and technology can occur.

Alyssa Rosenthal, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.

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