Laptops in the Classroom


Should students be allowed to use laptops or other mobile devices in class? Or do those devices create too much of a temptation for distraction and should therefore be banned? Could these devices be integrated into the class in way that would make them beneficial, or will they, by their very nature, always just result in distracted students?

The debate around laptops and mobile devices in the classroom gets the heart of what we discussed during the Information, Technology, and Society class. Are these devices entirely neutral, mere tools that students can choose to use in one way or another? Or are these devices designed in such a way that distraction is a highly probable, or maybe even an inevitable outcome? Or is the truth somewhere in between?

This assignment will help you wrestle with these questions and clarify your own opinions. Start by reading the following short articles, which articulate two sides of the debate:

Clay Shirky, “Why I Just Asked My Students to Put Their Laptops Away (Links to an external site.)”
Rebecca Schuman, “In Defense of Laptops in the Classroom (Links to an external site.)”
Next, do some additional research on this topic. Search the journal article databases (Links to an external site.) or look for credible articles on the web. Note that a “credible” article is one where the author makes a reasoned argument backed by evidence, and not one where the author just states his or her opinion in a loud or persuasive voice. Read at least two other articles beyond the two listed above.

Finally, write around 1,000 to 2,000 words that responds to what you’ve read, reflects on your own experiences, and articulates your own opinions and conclusions on the subject. Answer the following questions:

For each author you read, what is their core argument and what key evidence do they present to support that argument? For this first section, just briefly outline their arguments and evidence, comparing and contrasting them, but refrain from making judgments or inserting your own opinion. Your goal in this section is to show that you listened well to each author’s argument.
Next, analyze the arguments by digging down to the assumptions each author makes regarding the relationship between technology and society. Is the author more on the technological determinist side of the spectrum, the social determinist side, or somewhere close to the middle? Is the author more of a techno-optimist, a techno-pessimist, or somewhere in between? Critically, how does the author’s stance on these spectrums influence the author’s core arguments?
Lastly, reflect on these arguments as well as your own stance and experiences. What is your opinion on this issue and how does your own stance influence that?
Feel free to disagree with the articles you’ve read, but be respectful of the authors, realizing that they have good reasons for believing what they do.

When quoting or referring to something from an article you read, remember to cite the source using the APA format (Links to an external site.). This is a simple inline citation format used in many disciplines, including Information Science.

Also include a reference list (Links to an external site.) at the end, with full citations for the articles your read (including the first two listed above). See the Purdue OWL site for examples of how to format journal articles (Links to an external site.) and web pages (Links to an external site.).

Finally, read over our general writing guidelines and the Plagiarism section of the syllabus for more information about what we expect. If you need help with your writing, visit the Odegaard Writing Center (Links to an external site.).