College Guide


April 05, 2012 11:00 AM The Laptop Problem

By Daniel Luzer

Professors at the University of Ottawa want to ban laptops from their classroom. According to a piece at CTV Ottawa:

The University of Ottawa is considering a proposal which would give its professors the power to ban laptops and other electronic devices in the classroom. Professors say everything from texting to time on Facebook is allowing their students to do everything but learn.
“They are distracted and we are competing with that for their attention,” says University of Ottawa professor Marcel Turcotte who voted in favour of the policy. Turcotte says the cost of “disctracted learning” is hefty when considering some students are losing out on a pricey education.

According to the piece the university will vote on giving the power to ban electronic devices in May.

Well obviously texting and Facebook can distract students. But why do professors need the “power” to do this?

It’s your classroom. You can set the rules for it. Just say students in your class can’t use electronic devices. Why is this controversial?

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • Mitch on April 05, 2012 4:08 PM:

    "Well obviously texting and Facebook can distract students. But why do professors need the “power” to do this?"

    You seem to underestimate how attached the younger generation is to their electronics. Teens and 20-somethings cannot stop themselves from keeping their eyes glued to the screen. It is one of the major parts of their lives. I see this in all of my younger friends/family members (I am 32) and am constantly amazed by it.

    Remember how teenagers used to spend hours on the telephone? Well, now it is Facebook and texting. Unlike telephones, they carry these continual conversations with them 24/7. Also many young people become incensed when their text, FB posts or instant messages are not instantly replied to. Young people feel this peer pressure most strongly. Most frightening to me is that they would much rather text than talk on the phone or (God forbid) in person, but that's another discussion.

    Educators are somewhat crippled by this development. On one hand, students with laptops have access to resources that should aid their educational journey. On the other, they mostly use it for Facebook. It is nearly impossible to stop.

    Professors often lack the power to forbid laptops & cellphones from the classroom because they are the student's personal property and can be used for classwork. Students will always claim to be using them to take notes, or work on assignments.

  • Texas Aggie on April 06, 2012 12:20 AM:

    As long as they aren't interfering with the learning process by people who actually care about learning, so what? It's a lot better to have some jerk fixed on his/her electronic device that chatting with the neighbor student.

  • Snarki, child of Loki on April 06, 2012 7:58 AM:

    I Agree with Texas Aggie.

    It's college: it's up to them to sink or swim, and if they want to blow off their classes, that's their right. And accept the consquences in terms of their grades. They can party all night and blow off studying, too. They're not little kids any more.

    The problems come with the subsequent whining, and with overly pliant responses to that whining. Adjuncts, in particular, are vulnerable to student complaints, even manifestly stupid complaints. Admins can corrupt the process, wanting those tuition $$$ that will stop when a student flunks out.