I recently took a class (an undergraduate class that I had missed during my undergraduate schooling many years ago) in which any sort of technology was forbidden. We were not allowed to use laptops or voice recorders. This was a class which required both a great deal of note taking and a great deal of reading of PDF files, and the class instructor required notes to be taken by hand and documents to be printed out and brought to class.
Each week had reading assignments consisting of between six and ten multiple page (5-20 pages each) documents, and over the term students looked like they were developing extra muscles on one side of their body from carrying the ever growing pile of unnecessary paper. Even though all of the documents were digitally distributed we were required to print them all out and bring them to each class. I did so, my laptop powered down like a useless bag of bricks by my side.
As both a technologically-oriented person and an at least somewhat environmentally conscious person, I balked at this needless use of extraneous paper. I function best (as do an ever increasing number of students). I like my documents neatly organized in folders on my laptop, with my notes typed up alongside them in those folders.
I had to resort to frantically writing in my nearly illegible chicken-scratch handwriting on reams of legal paper and carrying piles of printed documents which were constantly getting rearranged, buried under other bags, and the like.
Worst of all, I was faced with the arduous task of typing up my horribly handwritten notes after each class, a process that took hours, and a process that I consider quite unnecessary and annoying.
If a student tried to pull out a laptop to take notes, the professor would single them out and ask that the computer be stowed away.
What disruption or object of subversion is a laptop? The instructor used the lecture room computer extensively throughout class, using Powerpoint presentations and video examples in the course of the lecture. Why were students not permitted the same courtesy in this classroom?
Technology in the hands of students has the power to vastly increase their organizational ability, save time, and open new directions in learning. Having learned to effectively use technology in my own life, I get very annoyed and hostile when I am not permitted to use these tools in a situation where they would be of obvious value.
Any thoughts, classroom teachers? Are laptops OK in college classrooms? How about in high school or middle school classrooms?