Curbing In-Class Laptop Use

By Peter Connor

Despite IT cutbacks in higher ed nationwide, the number of universities in the process of upgrading to smart classrooms—those wired for wireless and other techno-marvels—is on the upswing. As reported in the 2008 Campus Computing Survey, the number of wired classrooms hovered around the 67 percent mark; 75 percent if looking at just private institutions. On the surface, all well and good.

Regardless of the obvious benefits to college instructors everywhere such advancements are not without certain drawbacks. As it turns out—OMG!—instant messaging, online shopping, gaming, twitter-fingering, and other "critical-to-basic-survival" FaceBook/MySpace social networking chores have proven themselves to be somewhat of a distraction to students and teachers alike.

Keeping this from getting too far out of hand...

Harvard and Georgetown are among those universities who have instituted laptop-free zones.

Some teachers use self-governing social contracts, a device by which students agree to keep each other informed regarding the odd occasion when individual in-class laptop use might possibly—just possibly—have become a bit too distracting.

Other teachers wait awhile before taking action. In the weeks leading up to the first test they carefully—albeit surreptitiously—observe and duly take note of their regular in-class laptop users. After posting grades, the differential between lap-top users and non-users is publicized.

Diane Sieber—a University of Colorado/Boulder professor—has found that in-class laptop users generally score 11 percent lower than their fellow classmates. She has also found that in-class laptop use decreases significantly after the grade-differential is made public and the semester heads into its final stretch (Finding Dulcinea, 2009).

And then, there is this one professor…

Check it out


Lovett, H. A. (2009, November 9). Laptop use distracts students, annoys teachers, affects learning. Finding Dulcinea. Retrieved from

Campus Computing. (2008, October 29) The 2008 Campus Computing Survey. Retrieved from Campus Computing website:

YouTube. (sidewalksurfer9) (2010, February 19) Professor destroys laptop. Available from