Regulating Laptops in the Classroom

September 30, 2011

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Regulating Laptops in the Classroom
As the second installment of this topic, this 50-minute seminar fostered discussion in the USC community about regulating the use of personal technology, including laptops and cellphones, in the classroom. Participants gained insight into best practices for allowing and limiting laptop use as well as new perspectives on the roles personal devices can play in the learning environment.

Presented by CET Undergraduate Fellows James Green, Astronautical Engineering Major with a Video Game Design & Management Minor, Joseph Dombrosky, Policy Planning & Development & Political Science Double Major, and Michelle Tomkovicz, International Relations Major with Minors in Psychology and Law.
September 30, 2011 Hedco Neuroscience Building (HNB) 100 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Overview filmed & created by Michael P. Allison, Center for Excellence in Teaching

Both the instructors and the students are responsible for maintaining a classroom environment of proper laptop use, though in different capacities:
  • For professors...
    • Minimize distractions for the students as a whole
    • Engage students to reduce temptation of distractions
    • Make use of computer resources in positive manner
  • For students...
    • Minimize distractions to others
    • Make an effort to participate and engage in learning
    • Use laptop productively for class-related purposes
There is no universal laptop policy that works best for all situations. Considerations for tailoring laptop policy to your classroom:
  • Course topic
  • Class structure (lecture/discussion/lab)
  • Number of instructors/TAs
  • Class size
  • Student needs
  • The time of day

Comments and Suggestions from the event
  • Laptops can enable students to take notes faster, prompting the question: do students know how to take effective notes?
  • Laptop use can be particularly distracting in small, discussion-based courses, causing a lack of interaction and participation.
  • Require students to sign a contract at the beginning of the semester acknowledging the policy and disciplinary measures for laptop use and regulation. If there are any issues during the year, the professor can hold students more accountable.
  • Generational differences between students and professors contribute to misconceptions about laptop and cellphone use in class. Both sides have learning needs to consider.
  • deduct participation or attendance credit for improper laptop use in class.

Other University Policies
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