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Replacing Pen, Paper and Our Professors?

by: Diego Velasco ‘14 Guest Writer
PUBLISHED: 9 March 2012 No Comment

Bringing laptops to class has become a very common trend among students.

Personal computers are the new fashion in Hampden-Sydney classrooms, and it’s not because professors added them to the list of required school supplies (if we ever had one). You’ve probably noticed the increasing number of students who take their laptop to class every day, if you’re not already among the many who do. While it once was the case that the only person in a classroom to have access to any kind of technology was the professor, today we see more and more students depending on more than one form of technology to complete their school work, or so our professors would like to assume.
The fact is that technology prevails in many aspects of our lives. Its prevalence in our lives as students is certainly no exception, nor do I think could be one. As with any other kind of technology, personal computers can be used for good or for worst, both inside and outside the classroom. They can, for instance, enrich the learning experience of a student, if he chooses to use it for academic purposes like taking notes in class. But they can also impoverish the learning experience of a student, if he chooses to use it for non-academic purposes like chatting on Facebook during class. Whether most students use their laptops for the former use, or for the latter, we cannot know for sure.
What we do know is whether we as individuals are using our laptops to facilitate us to learn, or to facilitate us to get through a “boring” lecture. When asked about his reasons for using a laptop in class, freshman Michael Bolling commented, “I use my laptop to take notes in class.” He also admitted, “I get on Facebook every now and then, but that is not the main reason I bring my laptop to class.”  When asked about his reasons for not using a laptop in class, freshman Robinson Sagar said, “I’ve never used a laptop in class before because I know I would be tempted to not takes notes, and do something else instead.”
Unfortunately for professors, what students do or don’t do on their laptops, isn’t always clear. In regards to the use of laptops in his classes, History Professor Charles Pilkington states, “I am unbenevolent about it. There is no way to know what the students are actually doing on their laptops”. Likewise, Rhetoric Professor Elizabeth Deis adds, “To a certain extent, it is almost impossible not to allow the students to use their laptops, given they are so prevalent.” For many professors, the use of laptops in the classroom isn’t so much an issue in and of itself; rather, it is the act of not knowing what the students are actually doing on their laptops that disconcerts them. More so, it is the act of knowing that students have in their hands a piece of technology that, on top of smart phones, gives them the power to substitute not only pen and paper, but also professors, and ultimately an education worth thousands of dollars.
In the end, while most professors allow their students to use laptops in class, we as students are accountable for how we want to use them. When we make the choice to take our personal computers to class, we make the choice of how we want to use them. Let us not forget, however, that in doing so, we also make the choice of what we want to make of our education: a life-long asset, or a sad Facebook status with bad grammar.

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