Essay: Restricting technology in the classroom is unproductive

Each semester, I end up in a class with a professor who bans computers under the guise of improving class engagement, reducing technology to a distraction rather than a tool. And just like in middle school, I find myself walking the school supply aisle buying a notebook, pens, highlighters and white-out – all materials that are conveniently built into my computer. The reality is that technology is intertwined with every aspect of day-to-day life, and students must learn to use it wisely, weighing its costs and benefits themselves. College is meant to prepare students for the real world, so restricting technology use in class is unproductive.

Technology exists for the purpose of working and learning efficiently – laptops should improve the educational experience. A computer’s features like copy and paste and categorized files streamline how we take notes and study. Computers have become a commonality in the classroom, and students have already adjusted to take notes on their laptops for years. It is not logical to expect students to vigorously scribble their professors’ words during lectures when typing would allow them to transcribe what they are hearing much more swiftly.

If a professor says a term I do not know, autocorrect will make sure it is spelled correctly. If I mistype something, I can click the magical delete button instead of waiting minutes for white-out to dry or scrunching my paper with a pencil eraser. And when I’m referencing my class notes while studying or writing a paper, I can find a keyword with my computer’s command key instead of flipping through pages for hours on end. Why decrease my productivity and waste time, money, effort and paper?

In a packed classroom, technology allows each student to personalize their learning experience, bridging the gap between various learning styles and rates. Students can Google search for a term or concept that can clarify a part of the lesson. Professors can post their lecture slides on Blackboard so students can read them at their own pace. Technology has also brought major accessibility advancements like eye gaze technology, which lets people with disabilities like cerebral palsy operate computers and laptops with eye movement. Computers expand learning opportunities for everyone, which is predestined in a technologically advanced society.

Technology will inevitably be useful no matter the curriculum, so for professors to pick and choose when to allow laptops only interferes with students’ learning experience. As a student in the School of Media and Public Affairs, most of my syllabi are filled with links to lengthy online articles that were assigned as weekly readings. But when these assignments are stuck on my banned laptop, hidden away in my bag, class discussion poses an unnecessary challenge. I should not have to waste my time and money printing hundreds of pages of paper to refer to my assignments in class when I can easily access them on my laptop with no additional effort or cost.

Depriving students of their laptops in the classroom does nothing to accomplish the goal of ending distractions. Some professors may banish technology, but that does not mean their students care. Where there is a member of Gen Z, there is a smartphone – and it will make its way into a student’s hand when computers are not an option. An iPhone is automatically logged into Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram accounts, creating even more potential distractions than a computer.

The issue of technology in the classroom boils down to whether professors trust students to stay on task and learn with their computers in front of them. Students attend college to grow into professional adults ready for the workforce, and part of that means taking responsibility for themselves. If a student does not pay attention in class because they are distracted on their computer, it is up to them to bear the consequences. Young adults should know that it costs astronomical rates to sit in class. If they do not care, their grade in the class will reflect that, and the responsibility falls on them, not their professor.

Students already face plenty of tests in college with exams and papers, so professors should treat laptops in class as another way of evaluating and preparing them. Students who distract themselves on their laptops during class will lack the tools they came to college to obtain. They will have computers in front of them at their jobs as adults, and shopping online or playing Wordle during meetings will not slide. Classrooms prepare students for the future. Professors should simulate the professional world, where companies are reliant on technology. That means computers and the endless possibilities they provide should go where they serve students best – in front of them.

Jane Cameron, a senior majoring in journalism and mass communication, is an opinions writer.

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