[EAS]Re: Laptops in Lectures

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Mon Mar 26 03:11:26 EST 2001

        Reply to:   RE>Laptops in Lectures

Dear Colleagues -

My mailing about laptops in class elicited responses. Some of you
thought that if students do email or play Minesweeper during
lectures, it is because the instructor hasn't captivated them and
that Prof. Ayres's lament is an excuse.

Phil Long, Director of IT Services at Yale, pointed out that
letters in response to Prof. Ayres's op-ed piece are at
Before Minesweeper, we are reminded, there were crosswords inserted
into notebooks, teachers set bad examples by also multitasking e.g.
by talking on the phone while driving, laptops are often used in
meetings. Today the formerly rude is often shrugged off and called

Surprisingly, no one defended class notes in electronic form as
possibly more useful for later study, or the possibility of
accessing correlate materials, references or previous lectures.
Or precedents in the case of a law class?

Phil particularly notes two comments in the letters and responds:

> > At the beginning of the semester, it should be stated orally and in
> > the syllabus that no laptops are permitted in class.
> Absolutely possible and appropriate based on instructor preference,
> it seems to me, and
> > Perhaps if the country's law schools would stop appeasing the
> > demands of increasingly capricious students, there could be a
> > return to the traditional law school atmosphere that I can now hear
> > about only from my father.
> Like it or not, we are becoming a consumer driven society even in
> higher  ed; isn't that the ultimate result of being a capitalist
> democracy? Any chance to simply return to "the good old days?" I
> think not. This more general issue, in my view, far more than the
> specific question of laptops in classrooms, is a fundamental shift
> in the environment of higher education and poses serious long term
> challenges.
> /phil long

Higher instructor charisma is generally a good thing, though it is
not clear why one should have to face extra hurdles. Students
making technological choices is an issue very much with us, though I
do not consider the classroom a democratic institution. 

Whether laptops or any other technology ought to be used in a course
should be weighed by basic questions* about _any_ proposed teaching

- do they result in more active listening from students?
- do they help the instructor identify students who need special help
   or lack adequate preparation? In the best case they help students
   identify for themselves how they are doing.
- do they improve and focus student understanding and expression?
- do they help document for students that they are learning something 
   substantial in the course?

  --Peter Kindlmann

* from R.C. Wilson, "Improving faculty teaching: Effective use of
student evaluations and consultants", Journal of Higher Education,
v.57 (March/April 1986) pp.196-211.

> Date: 3/24/2001 6:59 PM
> From: pjk
> Subject:   Laptops in Lectures
> A Yale law professor comments.
> http://www.nytimes.com/2001/03/20/opinion/20AYRE.html
>    --PJK
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> EAS-INFO at jove.eng.yale.edu
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