Digital Distractions

Students have been increasingly using digital technologies in the classroom, some of these with the approval of the teacher/professor, and some of them without. Some professors allow students to bring in their laptops to class to take notes. Are the laptops really used to take notes? Or are they just a distraction from what is going on in the class. It is so easy for students to just open Facebook on their laptops and skim Twitter as well while the professor talks. Now surely this must be a distraction. But then again, some students do benefit from taking notes on their laptops rather than in a notebook since it’s easier to keep everything organized. Some professors also like each student to have internet access through the class period, to look up things and whatnot. Almost everyone can agree though that a student with a laptop is more distracted than a student without a laptop. And that’s just for laptops, which actually have a benefit to them.


What about cell phones? Cell phones in the class are very distracting not only to the student, but to the professor as well. The student has games and chatting services on his/her cell phone that completely takes their attention. Their eyes shift from looking at the professor to staring at their laps, where they “hide” their cell phones. When the professor sees this student he can choose to ignore it, or stop it. Just the fact that the professor has to make these decisions is a distraction from teaching the lesson properly. Any form of misconduct in the classroom is definitely a distraction to the teacher, and using your cell phone for games in class can surely be considered a kind of misconduct.


Some psychologists from UCLA have reported that multitasking is fine, and actually beneficial to use if you’re not trying to learn something new. If you want to learn something new and something that you want to remember it’s better not to multitask. In a classroom at school or at university, you are definitely trying to learn something new that you want to remember for at least a semester’s time. So according to these psychologists, it’s better not to multitask in an environment such as this. And since laptops and cell phones give way to multitasking, banning from the classroom or deeming them “frowned up” would increase the likelihood that students would learn better.
A professor of psychology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor said something very interesting. He says he does not want students using laptops in class, and he doesn’t want them even taking notes. He does not want his students to take notes even using pen and paper. Now this is truly unorthodox. This is what he had to say about his “theory”:
“"I think with the media that are now available, it makes more sense for the professor to distribute the material that seems absolutely crucial either after the fact or before the fact. Or you can record the lecture and make that available for the students to review. If you want to create the best environment for learning, I think it's best to have students listening to you and to each other in a rapt fashion. If they start taking notes, they're going to miss something you say."
As a student myself, I have had the experience of taking notes and missing something due to that. I actually don’t like to take notes at all. I prefer looking at the professor and catching everything he says. Apparently, I’m not the first one to think of that.

1. Glenn, David. "Divided Attention." The Chronicle of Higher Education. 28 Feb. 201. Web. 4 May 2011. <>.