Some classrooms have become computer and cellphone-free zones

When entering college, students have lists of items to purchase in order to be successful. At the top of the list, you’ll find one of the most expensive items — a laptop. Most students are required to have a laptop as a part of their academic program on college campuses across the world.

After spending from hundreds to thousands of dollars on this equipment, students expect to be able to bring their laptops into the classroom. But, more and more, teachers are banning computers and cellphones from their classrooms. While most teachers have conformed to the technology-driven classroom, others want a technology-free classroom, causing many students to be unhappy with their professors.

At the University of Missouri there are a few academic departments known for their strict computer policies, as well as professors who are infamous for not allowing computers. David Vaught, the department chair for CAFNR’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism department, is known for throwing students out of his classroom for using their cellphones or computers.

“I support a laptop and cellphone, not Facebook and Twitter,” Vaught said.

Vaught believes that a technology generation gap is part of the problem. He said his generation does not understand the dependence today’s students seem to feel for their devices. What he does understand, though, is that computers and cellphones have become a distraction to not only those operating them, but to those in view of the computer as well.

“Low scores used to be from not coming to class,” Vaught said. “Now, it is students not paying attention in class.”

Vaught said sleeping is just as distracting as laptops in his classrooms, and he uses similar procedures to remove that distraction. For both sleeping and texting in class, student are first warned and then asked to leave class, sometimes for the entire semester.

Noting the similarities to texting and driving, Vaught said there must be consequences to texting and computing while in the classroom setting. He pointed out that the habits one learns in a classroom will carry on into the professional world. Students need to understand that employers will not allow a worker to sit around and text or browse the Internet all day, so why should a professor?

The majority of professors on campus find the use of computers to be more beneficial for students than harmful. One such professor is Jan Dauve, the director of undergraduate studies and adviser chair for agricultural and applied economics. Dauve said computers are an efficient way for many students to take notes and record lectures from class.  He also views the ability for students to research topics during the middle of a class to be beneficial, because he said it allows students to further understand information the professor may not have time to cover.

“I am not the parent and the grade is the student’s responsibility,” Davue said.

Dauve said he views college as a time for students to grow and develop habits of their own.  He sees the importance of no longer babying students, who, past the age of 18, are considered adults. Dauve does understand some students are distracting to others, often with their computers, but finds the solution to be simple for solving this problem. Just remove the student who is causing the problem for the rest of the students.

With the technology showing no signs of disappearing, Dauve said he is not going to stand in the way. Instead he finds that adapting to technology is the most beneficial move, rather than stopping or banning computers and cellphones.

“The quicker we can adapt, the better,” Dauve said.  “I am unsure how to manage technology, but it is not going away anytime soon.”

Not all instructors have such strong opinions about computer use in the classroom. Tim Vos, associate professor for the Missouri School of Journalism, does not allow computers in his introductory classes but does in his upper level classes. Vos did not make this choice on his own. His department within the School of Journalism has created a new policy for computers and cellphones in the classrooms. It is up to the teacher’s discretion to allow computers in the upper level classes.

“We want to cultivate active listening and thinking skills,” Vos said. “That is difficult to do when you are multitasking by using a computer and cellphone.”

Vos has noticed the difference that computers make in a classroom. During his summer class, he did not allow computers until after the first exam for class. He said he did not have to remind students that they could use their computers after the first week, but noticed a bit of a drop off from the students’ attention in class.

This is the first time Vos has not allowed computers and cellphones in his lower level journalism classes, and he is interested to see if he will decide to continue the ban on computers.

“Not every course is about teaching active listening and critical thinking,”Vos said.  “Almost all courses require it, but because we are teaching it, I think the decision has been made that at this point in the curriculum, the 1100 level course, that we would do it this way.”

We all learn in different manners and the ultimate goal of a professor is to teach students and further their knowledge on a subject. Some may embrace the abundance of technology surrounding us, while others prefer a more old-school approach. No matter the decision, professors all have the same end goal, to limit distraction and teach in the most beneficial way possible.

Madison Williams

About the Author Madison Williams

Meet, Madison Williams, a 19-year-old sophomore in the science and agricultural journalism program and a sister from the sorority chapter of Phi Mu at the University of Missouri. She hails from a quaint, rural town an hour northeast of St. Louis known as Litchfield, Illinois. Her passion for the science and ag journalism major came from gaining knowledge of public relations work while being employed at the Bank in Trust Company of Litchfield and also having relatives and friends who work in the agriculture business. She was previously a biochemistry major at the University but decided to switch when she realized her desire to share and experience journalism in a field that relates to the outdoors.