Laptops in class provide tools, distractions for students


Senior marketing major Marissa Jambrone, uses her laptop computer before class in the Jack Arends Visual Arts Building Monday afternoon.

By Hailey Kurth

On Elle Woods’ first day at Harvard, she walked, notebook in hand, into a classroom of laptop-wielding students. In Legally Blonde, a laptop seems to be the utensil of choice; at NIU, some students feel differently.

Sophomore marketing major Joey Wolfe said he brings his laptop to lecture classes, but decides not to bring it to smaller classrooms because he thinks it’s rude to the professors.

“I don’t mind [students bringing laptops to class], as long as the people using them aren’t distracting in any way,” said assistant communications professor Kathryn Cady.

Junior meteorology major Kristin Cwynar said students should be able to bring laptops to class if it’s a tool that helps them, like if they’re a better typist than writer.

“But at the same time, for most teachers, you’re able to print notes out for free [in NIU computer labs],” Cwynar said. “So, it’s like, ‘Why do you need to take your laptop to class?'”

With one glance around a college class, many students may already be able to answer that question.

“I’ll start out taking notes, then probably a half hour later I’ll drift off and do something else,” Wolfe said. “It’s a temptation.”

Wolfe said some students can block out the temptation, but he sees other students doing the same thing as him.

Kendra Goldsworthy, junior early childhood studies major, said she has been in a class where the teacher asked students to bring their laptop.

“It was really distracting hearing everyone type and seeing different screens,” Goldsworthy said.

Goldsworthy agreed it was hard not to wander off to sites like Facebook.

Cady said she usually can’t see the screen, so laptops don’t distract her from teaching. If she sees students doing something other than class work, she tells them to stop.

“I think you can be more discrete about your phone–it’s not as distracting,” junior finance major Andrew Parker said. “Whereas a laptop has a giant screen, so you creep on them and see what they’re doing.”

Even though students sometimes use their laptops for entertainment or social networking during class, for many professors and students, using a phone for the same thing is still a classroom no-no.

“I think the reason is because of the students’ reaction to them,” Cady said. “Almost never, regardless of what students say, are they messing with their cell phone for a class-related purpose.”

Cwynar said there’s a difference between texting once or twice and texting throughout the entire class. She said she questions why students come to class if they’re going to text the entire time.