To Ban or Not to Ban: A Usefully Provocative Answer


For every enthusiastic voice championing the use of laptops in classrooms, we hear equally skeptical claims. College professors, in particular, have been increasingly vocal about banning distractions to ensure that students stay focused.

James M. Lang–a professor of English, who also also directs the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College–pushes back against such bans.

In a striking comparison, he views problems with distracted laptop users the same way he views problems with cheating.

If lots of students are cheating on a particular assignment, Lang argues, then it’s time for us to change that assignment.

So too with laptop distractions. If lots of students are browsing FB posts, their disorientation lets us know that this current teaching method just isn’t working.

Lang’s argument implies that even if we take away the laptop, our teaching method hasn’t gotten any better.

Provocatively, this argument shifts an important responsibility from students to teachers; Lang, after all, tells us that students’ attention is as much our job as theirs.

Wisely, Lang offers specific classroom approaches to ensure that students use their laptops for good, not for ill.

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