Laptop fever

Recently a student came to my office with a request. As he sat down he opened his briefcase and took out a small laptop, placed it on the table and booted it up. And as he asked his question and listened to my answer, he was typing away energetically on the keyboard. I don’t know what he was writing: maybe he was taking down what I was saying, maybe he was composing his latest entry on Twitter, maybe he was playing Sudoku – who knows? I was quite intrigued, but said nothing. When he was finished he packed up his laptop and left.

I am told by colleagues that the laptop is now a common sight in the lecture theatre or classroom, with an increasing number of students bringing them along and using them visibly. Distracting though that may be, it will be less so than the Olympia typewriter that a student once brought to a seminar early on in my lecturing career, which moreover he was not excessively skilled at using: the keys regularly got stuck as he typed, and as he released them he was fond of muttering an expletive or two, which were repeated sotto voce by some of the other students.

Generally I am a supporter of the use of technology where it assists, and I see no reason why this should not apply to the laptop. Of course some may be using it for wholly extraneous purposes, but then again my fellow student back in the late 1970s who, every Friday, had Sporting Life open under the desk so he could study the form ahead of placing his next horse racing bets was not less distracting then the student managing their Facebook profile would be now. It is unreasonable to seek to turn back the technological clock, it would make much more sense to engage the student and their hardware and facilitate their use of the laptop for purposes relevant to the class.

Anyway, I am now bringing my own laptop along to meetings. It’s useful, and great when things get boring.

Explore posts in the same categories: technology, university


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7 Comments on “Laptop fever”

  1. Vincent Says:

    Why do you not hand an mp3 of the lecture to anyone who wants it, for a price. Or place a mic on the lectern to broadcast directly to the hardware. You would get two pluses -at the very least- out of it. An income stream and forcing vigor into the lectures, no longer the yellowed rustle of something written when Noah was a lad

  2. iain Says:

    You might like to consider carefully the choice of social media and what it says about you or your students/readers:

  3. TheChrisD Says:

    One thing that it may be worth considering, that while we students may be not paying much attention as we are busy playing away on our laptops during lectures, at least we’re not talking loudly and disrupting the class – much…

  4. […] Ireland’s leading celebrity academic blogger discusses a the theme of Laptops in class: Laptop fever […]

  5. tricia Says:

    If the laptop battery backup time is good then it’s a good choice to note the lectures.

  6. NCL Says:

    They are just everywhere now though aren’t they – i still like to take notes with a pen and paper – you can make interesting connections you might miss with just typing in line after line horizontally on the laptop.

  7. I agree with the idea of giving out mp3s of the lectures, but you’ll alwys get people being rude and not paying attention… it makes me wonder what people are doing there in the first place when they do things like that >_<

    anyway, I think it does help many students, and that is what matters, as it can give them instant access to tools to help them with their research and work.


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