The magazine for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at
Iowa State University

Discussion: Should personal technology be allowed in class?

Two journalism students offer their opinion on whether personal technology, such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones, should be used during class.


It has been six years since I finished my undergraduate degree and to my surprise, not much has changed in the way we are taught. The same old chalkboards are still on the walls, but many of my classmates have adopted personal tech for use in the classroom. It’s interesting to see a how laptops and tablets have been embraced by students to get the most of their education. With the increased capability and range of innovation, I believe personal technology will be used to augment the classroom experience.

For those of us who have less than artistic handwriting – “chicken scratch,” as my friends affectionately label mine – taking notes can be an arduous and often fruitless task. A keyboard allows students to type much faster, giving them the ability to keep up as the teacher speaks. This lets the student take more diligent and comprehensive notes, and gives those of us with sloppy handwriting the ability to actually read what we just wrote. No longer are we guessing and translating the unknown hieroglyphs we scribbled during lecture.

The use of personal tech allows for greater sharing of ideas among students. When a student is out sick, they now have access to the notes they missed. In fact, they may even be able to watch a live-stream or a recorded video of the class. This allows for greater communication and flexibility among students and professors, knowing they will be able to interact with students beyond the walls of the classroom.

Obviously, using any device connected to the Internet could be a distraction waiting to happen; if a student wants to check Reddit, Facebook or Twitter there is not much to stop them. However, I believe that students have enough awareness to know they need to pay attention. Also, it has the potential to allow the student to be more interactive in the educational process. It could be as simple as searching new concepts on Google, or showing a video. Obviously, personal tech has drawbacks, but for the most part it enhances the scope of the learning experience.

Eric Meyer, graduate student, journalism and mass communication


Today’s generation is a generation of technology. We are used to constantly being on our smartphones - always up to date with news, email and social media. Personal technology gives immediate access to everything our hearts desire.

And provides immediate distraction in classrooms.

To be honest, in the majority of my classes I can be found using my laptop to take notes. After class if you were to ask for my notes, I’d have them saved and ready to send. But ask how well I understood the material, how much of the lecture I actually heard, and you wouldn’t like the answer. Neither do I.

Using a laptop in class gives me an excuse to multitask. Whether it be checking emails or social media or working on other assignments, something other than my notes always seems to pop up on my screen. I regret using personal technology in classrooms because, although I took all the notes, I wasn’t always listening.

In addition to being a distraction to oneself, personal technology is a distraction to others. For fellow classmates sitting behind you, a computer screen is bright and attention grabbing. The same goes for cell phones. It is obvious when a student is zoned in on their smartphone. There is a time and a place for everything, and the classroom is neither the time nor the place to be absorbed in our phones. It is harmful to oneself, distracting to others, and just plain rude to professors. As much as we students think we are really good at hiding our cell phone use, we’re not.

I have one class this semester where laptops are not allowed. As a result, I am always paying attention, I am more engaged in class discussions, and I have more respect for the professor because I am giving him or her my full attention – just as they are giving me theirs.

So put away the laptops and iPads and smartphones and let us get back to taking notes the old fashioned way. After all, technology life is limited. Pen and paper never fail.

Jane Morrison, senior, journalism and mass communication