Laptop Bans in Class

With the start of the new academic year fast approaching (we start classes again on Monday, August 22. Yikes!), I’ve been thinking about my decision last year to stop banning laptops, cell phones, etc. from my classroom. I had, in fact, been meaning to write a (long overdue) blog post about it, but Lee Skallerup beat me to it.

The only thing I would add to her otherwise excellent post is that one reason I also decided to stop banning distractions from class was because I was sick and tired of trying to police it. To me, there is nothing more dull than having to stop class to scold a student who is texting on her/his lap. Instead, we now have a conversation about why the students might not want to be texting friends, Facebooking, etc. if they are interested in a good grade (because really, you simply cannot Facebook AND learn the German subjunctive at the same time). I also tell them that they are grownups and it’s up to them to decide if they want to learn or goof around in class. All I ask is that they not bother their fellow students (so obviously this means ringers off, no conversations in class. And I do ask them to obey the “one person talks at a time” rule).

Last year was the first time I’d tried this and it worked pretty well. For the most part, students did not goof around (truly, I think half the thrill of texting in class is the possibility of “getting caught.” Take that away and suddenly, it’s a lot less interesting). I did once have to talk to a student after class who had spend the entire hour and fifteen minutes alternating between laptop, iPad, and cell phone. In a 7-person class, that was pretty distracting to everyone. But generally, both I and my students are much more relaxed when we’re not fighting over their technology.

What about you? Do you ban laptops, cell phones, etc. from your classroom? Or do you allow them? If you allow them, what rules do you have? Take the poll and discuss in the comments.


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