The St. John’s laptop program creates an academic problem. While it is great that all students are equipped with a new laptop and given access to one of the country’s largest campus Wi-Fi networks, are students really using these machines to get all they can out of their education?
Any student who has ever sat behind someone using their laptop in class knows the problem: too often it is not class work that is on the screen.
Certainly, the students have their right to do what they want with the computers granted them (up to a certain point, as it is technically St. John’s property until graduation). But if it is interfering with their learning, and possibly detrimental to their grades, is it really in the University’s, and ultimately the students’, best interest to allow this freedom?
Of course the laptop program should not be discontinued. It is an excellent program that ensures all students are on equal footing, at least technologically. At home or in the dorms, the laptop is invaluable for writing essays, researching topics, or even casual use like browsing the Internet and chatting with friends.
The problem comes when chatting with friends – or watching movies, or playing games – is happening in the classroom. Despite St. John’s giving out laptops, professors have every right to, and indeed they should, ask students to refrain from laptop use while in class in most situations.
Some students have good intentions, sure. Some will use only Microsoft Word and take notes for the entirety of the class. But conduct an informal poll amongst your friends: how many of them can resist the temptation to log onto AIM or check their Facebook page to pass the time during class?
Many students would argue that they could easily balance a conversation with a friend on AIM while taking down the class notes at the same time. While it is probably possible to do this, it is not so easy to have a conversation with a friend over the computer while engaged in a class discussion at the same time.
Even if the computer does not prevent a student from taking notes, it does require them to divide their attention. And despite whatever people may say, education is the important part about college.
Perhaps in upper level courses, laptops are not such a problem. By the time a student is a senior, they should have their priorities in order enough to know whether or not they can afford to divide their attention in class or not.
But for incoming freshmen, with a high school mindset, just coming into their new, “free” life, allowing computers in class is an invitation to distraction – especially in core classes that students may not find as important.
Until students are entrenched in their major, and have the tools to make a rational decision about whether they want to completely devote themselves to the subject, laptops should, at least, be frowned upon during class time.
It is a university and education must be the first priority: a message we must be conveying to our freshmen.