Suggestions for Laptop Use in Classrooms
As the availbility of laptop computers and wireless access in NMU's classrooms has grown so have the opportunities for students' attention to "wander" away from classroom activites. The Educational Technology Resources and Policy Committee (ETRPC) and the Teaching and Learning Advisory Committee (TLAC) have collected from their colleagues the following syllabus statements, classroom techniques, philosophies, and concerns of cheating on the use of laptops to provide guidance to other faculty.
Sample statements for a syllabus:
Computers are to be utilized for coursework and activities related to coursework. Do not use computers for entertainment during class meetings.
Do not display material on screen which may be distracting or offensive to your neighbor.
Use headphones for activities that require sound.
"Negative participation (surfing, gaming, chatting, emailing) in class will reduce your participation grade by at least 1/2 letter grade - you are a distraction to others sitting nearby and to me."
"Appropriate Classroom Laptop Use...Although having a laptop in class opens up new learning possibilities for students, sometimes students utilize it in ways that are inappropriate. Please refrain from instant messaging, e-mailing, surfing the Internet, playing games, writing papers, doing homework, etc. during class time. Acceptable uses include taking notes, following along with the instructor on PowerPoint, with demonstrations, and other whole class activities, as well as working on assigned in-class activities, projects, and discussions that require laptop use. It is easy for your laptop to become a distraction to you and to those around you. Inappropriate uses will be noted and may affect your final grade."
You are expected to be punctual, alert, and prepared for the class. You will be considerate of the instructor and other students, which includes not keyboarding or checking e-mail while information is being presented. Please turn off instant messaging during class time and refrain from playing games on your computer.
Please turn off cell phones and pagers when you are in the classroom. You are encouraged to bring your computer to lecture, but, while in the class, you will use your computer only for purposes related to this course.
"Please maintain the computer issued to you in proper working order at all times. Viruses and spyware can infect the computer without your knowledge. Please run scans often."
Example of Classroom Management Techniques:
- Instructors have the prerogative to allow or disallow laptops in the classroom. Due to the nature of a specific class, laptops during class time may not be the most appropriate tool to use.
- Instruct students to email you at the end of the class period attaching their notes typed in class.
- Ask students to close the top of their laptops to observe.
- Speak behind them to observe their screens.
- If an inappropriate screen saver (e.g. sexually explicit, etc. quietly ask the student to not display that screen in your class BECAUSE you are concern it will be distractive to others.
- Instruct the class regardless of what they are doing with their computer while the instructor is lecturing or conducting a lab is their business and that they are, responsible for the material covered, homework assigned, tests given, etc.
- State at the first class that students are misinformed if they believe surfing, gaming, and chat dont bother anyone else. CTL examples of students who have requested that you speak to a particular person because their laptop misuse is very visually distractive to them.
- Encourage peer discipline, e.g. tell the person sitting next to you if it bothers you. In classes where there are teams of students, this works moderately well because they are more comfortable with each other. Tell a student if you believe they have crossed a line and it will affect their participation grade. After that, it is their choice.
- Have the students follow along with the PowerPoint slide in Design mode (not Run mode). Show them how to take notes in the bottom of the screen so they can be occupied both mentally and physically during lecture. Incorporate blank or incomplete slides which they must finish after the lecture. These are spaced about every 4-5 slides. If they are effectively using their laptop for note-taking there is less time to day dream or go online. Doing so means they have missed points in lecture.
- Give interactive exercises in class that require Internet search, compilation of facts, group assessment of information, or other active outcome. Again, the task requires their attention so they are less apt to diverge to online misuse.
- Instruct the students to put their laptops away during lectures.
- If there is evidence of misuse, discuss one-on-one with that student, rather than imposing some restrictive, impossible-to-effectively-enforce rule on all students.
- Regard the unhealthy laptop usage as an indicator on how well a lecture is being received. If students heads are bobbing due to sleepiness and laptops are being opened for surfing or gaming, make note to alter that lecture.
- Ban laptops from the classroom if misuse persists.
- Laptop misuse is today's version of having a 'dirty' magazine hidden in the pages of the textbook. It is the student's responsibility to use the laptops responsibly.
- Let the students enjoy the consequences of their laptop use.
- There will always be some students in a class who attend just for the appearance and have no intentions of really participating. They can become contagious if a tone of non-acceptance isn't set early, or if class time is not used effectively. So it's partly the students responsibility to self-discipline and partly the faculty members responsibility to present in a meaningful manner.
- I wonder, though, exactly when surfing or instant-messaging actually becomes "misuse". When a student is searching for something possibly related to what is being discussed in class, or even "instant messaging" about something being discussed, is that "misuse"? What if his/her search or messaging is only peripherally related? How are we really to know, with any certainty, what degree of "misuse" is actually occurring, and even if we could be certain, do we really want to become the laptop Gestapo?
- Part of this depends upon the nature of the course and what type of in-class "participation" is required / expected at the time. Obviously, if a time is scheduled for a particular participatory group activity, such as small-group discussions or an in-class assignment, and a student is simply ignoring the activity and just surfing, there is a problem that needs attention. However, I have not seen this happening during those types of activities in my classes.
- There are many students who can, to varying degrees, divide their attention and still succeed, and some very well, in the courses I teach. Simply because a student chooses to "surf" at a particular time doesn't mean he/she is inherently a poor student, nor that he/she is completely oblivious to the subject matter being discussed.
Cheating as been a concern in academia for many years. The advancement of electronic devices such as laptops, cell phones, handheld devices, and wireless access have added a new level of concern for cheating. The following are suggestions to deter cheating in your classes.
Introduction Lab Course Syllabus:
Students in this class are expected to conform to a code of academic honesty. While it is encouraged for students to work together, there are situations where work is expected to be the students whose name appears on the work. Quizzes and exams are obvious examples of where cheating will not be tolerated. However, using the same code and documentation (even if you change your name and modify some words), same graphs, etc is also considered cheating. Each student is expected to learn how to create their own files, graphs, etc. In lab work, it will often be the case that both partners will have identical work. However, both partners are to turn in lab sheets, and both partners are expected to participate equally in completing the lab tasks. It is not acceptable for one partner to do all the work, while the other merely watches and writes. Both partners are expected to understand the lab exercises. If you have questions on what is considered appropriate, ask your professor.
Upper Level Lab Course:
Students in this class are expected to conform to a code of academic honesty. While it is encouraged for students to work together, there are situations where work is expected to be the student's whose name appears on the work. Exams are obvious examples of where cheating will not be tolerated. However, using the same code and documentation (even if you change your name and modify some words), is also considered cheating. For example, using the same MATLAB m-files (unless given permission by the instructor) in lab or for homework to produce two copies of plots or problem solutions (even if you change your name), is also considered cheating. Each student is expected to learn how to create their own files. In lab work, it will often be the case that both partners will have identical work. However, both partners are to turn in lab sheets, and both partners are expected to participate equally in completing the lab tasks. It is not acceptable for one partner to do all the work, while the other merely watches and writes. Both partners are expected to understand the lab exercises. If you have questions on what is considered appropriate, ask your professor.
The Dean of Students office provides each student a handbook which includes the Student Code. Section 2.2.3 references Academic Dishonesty.
NMU Acceptable Use Policy:
This statement represents a guide to the acceptable use of network resources at Northern Michigan University.
To add your ideas, techniques and comments to this list please contact Tom Gillespie at firstname.lastname@example.org