Are your classmates — tapping away at technology — a distraction?

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By Nathaniel Villano

Campus News

Generally in bigger lecture halls today, most professors allow the use of laptops to take down notes. Or has it begun to serve as a distraction instead? Our generation and the others following right behind have been affected by the technology wave. The constant bombardment of “What’s trending?” and “What’s happening now” has us constantly checking the screen.

Laptops in class may serve to be helpful, but they are known to be disruptive; not just to the student, but to those in the general vicinity. “I think they’re useful in the classroom, but when students abuse them, it makes them distracting,” said Andrew Galluzi, a senior at SUNY Oswego. There are professors who allow the use of electronic devices but to what extent? What’s stopping a student from perusing the web and finding this week’s funniest YouTube clip? With the ability to use electronic devices such as tablets and laptops comes a certain level of maturity and responsibility.

Rather than taking notes however, most students are checking social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook. The ability to hide right behind the screen makes it all too easy. Why bother to show up to class, only to spend the entire lecture sitting on social media websites?

“When I’m using my laptop in class, I’m more than likely not paying attention to the teacher,” said Brendan Reilly, a sophomore at the University at Albany. “I’ll be on Twitter and Reddit, which completely takes me away from what I’m supposed to be learning.” Some students seem to think that using a pen and paper is no longer in style; that the use of electronic devices is far superior.

On the contrary, while they can become distracting, they do allow for the instant access to information, should there be question on something. According to an article written in the Washington Post, a professor said, he liked when students brought their laptop to class. “I might ask someone to look something up that I don’t know off the top of my head,” he said. However, he also said going to the back of his colleague’s classrooms almost 50 percent of the students were goofing off on the web.

There is no reason in particular that laptops are necessary. Before they became popular, college students were to take notes by hand and still managed to do well. “I don’t like to bring my laptop, because I feel like professors and teacher’s assistants don’t like them,” said Tai Wakabayashi, a sophomore at the University at Albany.

Laptop usage in online-based lecture hall classes also has a particularly high rate. Some may think that just because the lecture slides are posted online this is a free pass to browse the Internet. Oftentimes professors will mention things in class that are not on the slides. Information such as that is usually pertinent for an upcoming test.

Despite whether or not a class is easy, full attention should be given to the professor. Their job is to teach and mold the minds for the future, but those who hide behind screens often make this difficult. Some professors may even feel disrespected by the sight of students using a laptop. The point of classes is to learn and expand your knowledge of the world.

Most professors believe electronics are a distraction, which is why in some lecture halls they may be prohibited. “I think it’s disrespectful to the surrounding students and the professor,” said Eszter Szalczer, a theatre history and dramatic literature professor at the University at Albany. Szalczer does not allow the use of electronic devices during her lectures. “I don’t believe in multi-tasking. It prevents students from getting the maximum benefit from the class.” Several studies have proven that multitasking is impossible. In fact those who multitask heavily are more prone to distractions according to The Atlantic. So be it if a student has no desire to engage in the lecture, but to distract surrounding students is rude. Just because one does not have a yearning to learn does not mean the students in the general area do not.

The fact of the matter is some students believe that just because something might be easy this gives them the freedom to do what they please; that what the teacher is explaining to the class has no intrinsic value. These are the students who tend to cram the day before the exam, or expect someone from class to give them a copy of the lecture notes. Regardless of whether or not the notes are posted online, full attention should be paid to the teacher. That is what all of those student loans are for aren’t they?

Not only are they a distraction, but also as far as taking down notes, studies have shown it’s much more beneficial to write them down by hand. According to, a study done by psychologists stated that using a pen and paper helps improve memory and being able to understand concepts. Medical Daily said even after a week-long review, students who took down notes by hand did relatively better than those who took down notes electronically. It has also been noted writing down notes by hand leads to a better quality of learning.

If students would like to get the most out of their education, they should do themselves a favor and leave the laptop at home. Grease up those hand joints and start taking notes down by hand. Laptops may give you the ability to take down notes faster, but in the end they ultimately end up becoming a distraction.

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