Professors raise concerns over laptop use in classrooms

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Professors at the College of Charleston are among the latest to voice concern over student laptop use during lectures.

"Half the time you can't tell if they're actually taking notes or making a shopping list," said Dr. Mitch Colgan of the Geology department.  "It's frustrating because you try and make an interesting lecture, but half your students are on [social networking] sites."

The topic of banning laptops has been growing amongst the academic crowd in recent months.  A study by the University of Colorado at Boulder, found that students who visited websites during classes performed worse than those who never bothered to attend lectures at all.

Students, however, point out that they are paying to be there; how they spend their time, and money is up to them.  If anything else, professors, say students, need to get better material if websites have a better shot at holding interest.

"You're going to try and force people to do something when they're already there voluntarily?" said Jason Parker, a senior.  "It's the job of a professor to be engaging, to be giving an interesting lecture, something that people should want to attend."

Parkers admits to using his laptop in a majority of classes.  While he says he refrains from recreational purposes, Parker believes a total ban on personal computers would be a mistake.

"They can be quite useful in finding information a professor or fellow student may not have off the top of their heads," said Parker.  "[Laptops] are a double-edged sword."

While Colgan can testify to their practicality, he says it isn't his job to monitor student behavior.

"I can't control dozens, let alone hundreds of students at once," said Colgan.  "I have to instruct them on new and challenging material."

Furthermore, said Colgan, is the on-going concern of student success.  When asked about the University of Colorado study, Colgan said such figures put his own job at risk.

"I have supervisors who judge me on how well my students perform," said Colgan.

At most colleges, including the College of Charleston, raises, tenure, and job advancement for professors are often judged on how well students do during the academic semester or year.

"It's a touchy area," said Colgan.  "There is no quick fix."

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