Taekman: Don’t ban electronics in the classroom

Sarah Taekman, Staff Writer

The first time a professor told me that electronics were not allowed in class, I thought it was some sort of joke. I mean, can you really blame me, considering our school?

Case Western Reserve University is known for its engineering, computer programming and technological innovations, amongst other things. The act of banning it in the classroom seems against our nature.

However, this anti-electronic rule is a trend I’ve noticed is on the rise; an increasing number of professors are telling students to leave electronics at home and are opting for paper copies of documents in class.

I think there’s been a student uproar. Isn’t this method a major waste of paper? Won’t this drain student wallets? Note-taking by hand is much slower and inefficient, how are we going to keep up? How are we supposed to be disconnected from the Web for a whole one to two hours—what if something happens?

The typical professor’s response is to cite studies stating that student information retention rates are higher when using paper, and that electronics provide distractions from the material during class. It’s a valid point; I can’t count the number of times I’ve spotted Buzzfeed quizzes or Netflix on the screens of students surrounding me.I myself am guilty of slacking off in class.

However, it would be false to say these professors are hell-bent on excluding technology from education. In fact, the very professors banning computers in the classrooms tend to be the ones most in favor of using them for homework. Educational computer programs, online research, instructional videos—while we may not use our electronics in the classroom, all of our work outside of it is virtual.

This raises a question: how do we balance technology with education? How much learning can be done on a screen versus in a classroom? Is the quality of learning worth the large amount of money students end up blowing up on printers and books?

Personally, I can understand both sides of the no-electronics argument. Yes, it may be old-fashioned and costly. It may be environmentally unhealthy. But for its intended purpose of increased information retention, I find that it does its job well.

But that isn’t really the issue at stake. Most students I talk to are not irritated by the fact they can’t use electronics, but rather that they have no choice in the matter.

We’re all in college. We’ve proven time and time again that we’re here to learn, that we’re willing to take our education into our own hands and put in the effort necessary to succeed.

How we go about doing that—handwritten or typed—is our business. Failure to pay attention is no one’s fault but our own. We’ll learn the material in some way or another, I promise.

But when you take away that decision of how we choose to work, it impedes on the autonomy we gained when we left the highschool classroom. We spent 12 years being told how to learn, and this policy makes us feel like we’re reverting back.

Not to mention that, while I might be privileged enough to afford all the books, notebooks and printer paper I now need for those classes, that doesn’t mean that every student is. This method is a financial burden on students already weighed down by debt.

I appreciate the sentiment of trying to improve our learning experience through an in-class electronics ban. I know the professors have our best interests at heart.

But we’re independent young adults. As well as amping up the cost of our education, removing our choice in the matter also removes the point of college: taking our education into our own hands.
Sarah Taekman is a first-year student majoring in biology.