Walk into almost any college classroom and you will almost certainly see at least a handful of students staring at a laptop screen, clearly not at all paying attention to the instructor. In this discussion, let’s ignore the underlying reasons that the students are not paying attention (most times it is the lecturers fault that they are not engaging the students properly). No matter whose fault it is, fooling around on the internet during class is rude, unacceptable, and should (and can!) be stopped!
I am not suggesting laptops be banned from classrooms. In fact, they can be extremely valuable tools for taking notes, communication, demonstration, and much more. However, it is rather obvious when a student is doing something other than something class related. It is very simple – with a quick glance around the room during a pause in speech, those students whose eyes shift their attention to the lecturer to see what the pause is for are paying attention; those students whose eyes remain glued to the screen are not! An even more effective way of determining this is by walking a lap around the room (though this may not be feasible in a large lecture hall). It pains me to see faculty blindly continuing a lecture when many students are clearly off playing in “internet land”. Use your authority and tell them to put away the laptops!
I am actually NOT an advocate of required class attendance, but if a student does come to class, it is extremely rude to not pay attention, and even worse, become a distraction to other students who did come with the intent of paying attention.
As Monica Bulger mentions, laptops are certainly not the only source of distraction in a classroom. However, actively engaging in non-class related activities on a laptop is an obvious distraction and one that can be easily prevented with a simple “Hey! Put away the laptops!”.