Students may only use cell phones with my permission, and I severely penalize students who insist on distracting themselves or their classmates with them.
I used to forbid the classroom use of laptops and tablet-type devices as well, but that was a losing battle. But be warned: these devices seduce us into the illusion of “multitasking.” Studies show that we’re not very good at this, and that it actually impairs learning. Moreover, a study published in 2013 found that not only did the “multitasking” student in a classroom do worse on a postclass test on the material, so did the peers who could see his or her computer.
Furthermore, another study suggests that taking notes by hand rather than typing them on a laptop improves comprehension of the material. While students taking notes on a laptop (and only taking notes—they were not allowed to “multitask”) wrote down more of the material covered in class, they were often typing what the instructor said verbatim, which seems to have led to less processing of the material. The students taking notes by hand had to do more synthesizing and condensing as they wrote because they could not get everything down. As a result, they learned the material better.
All this being said, if you choose to distract yourself with a laptop or tablet during class, that’s your choice. However, if you distract your classmates with such devices I will give you one warning before penalizing you.
© D. R. Koukal