The days of over-the-shoulder Facebook stalking and bemoaning the poor Tetris moves of the girl sitting in front of you could be coming to an end. A work group made up of a Teaching and Learning subcommittee of the Academic Policy Committee has developed guidelines for professors to outline the kind of action they can take regarding mobile device use in McGill classrooms. This has led to talks of banning laptops, or at least restricting their use.
Arash Abizadeh, a McGill political science professor, has already taken advantage of the new guidelines by completely banning the use of mobile computing or communication devices in his classrooms, barring extenuating circumstances.
Abizadeh cited multiple studies linking evidence of the use of such devices in the classroom to poor academic performance, greater distraction for users and fellow students, and decreased ability to “digest and synthesize” main points.
Although evidence exists supporting these claims, it could become a problem for students who depend on their laptops take notes legibly and keep them organized. Katherine Barry, U2 chemical engineering, said the use of her tablet PC is essential to staying organized, and the programs are extremely helpful for work pertaining to her major.
“A lot of my classes involve drawing graphs, complex formulas, and pictures,” she said. “The tablet laptop allows me to draw those by hand when needed. I also use a program called OneNote, which lets you take screen clips of any of the content published online. I can get the notes online and insert them into my personal notes to keep everything in one place.”
Some students who use laptops in class, though, admit it can be a distraction. Stas Moroz, U3 economics and political science, said he uses his laptop for certain classes but it sometimes affects his focus.
“Sometimes I’ll check my email and check the news, and when the professor is saying important stuff, I’ll miss it,” he said.
Some students believe the burden is on the professor to keep them interested and engaged. Theo Lyons, U3 political science, noted, “If the professor is boring, then I get distracted, but if the professor is really engaging, then the laptop doesn’t distract me.”
While it may be difficult for some students to give up laptop use in class, it will be seen as a positive for others who take notes by hand and could avoid being preoccupied by other student’s laptops.
“I don’t mind if people just have their Word document open and they’re taking notes,” said Trenton Millar, U2 political science and religious studies. “It’s distracting when they’re on Facebook, and then CNN, then some blog, then Wikipedia and they’re all over the place.”