Burden is on students to use laptops responsibly

This is a message to that kid who sits in class and plays solitaire for an hour. It is to the girl who checks her e-mail, and that guy who sends instant messages in class: Cut it out.

Professors at universities around Boston, including Northeastern, are taking steps to limit the use of laptops and the Internet in classrooms, complaining students are using their laptops to play games, check e-mail, shop online, etc. And we can’t blame those professors.

We’ve all had that boring lecture class that leaves us looking for distractions, but there’s also an issue of respect here. Not just respect for the professors, but respect for your fellow classmates who have come to class with a legitimate wish to learn, and find it both distracting and discouraging to see you buying shoes in the row in front of them.

If you’re just going to peruse Facebook for an hour, please just skip class and poke your friends from the comfort of your residence hall.

It would be a real shame if laptops are banned in classrooms, or even just the classrooms of specific professors. They can be a very helpful tool for taking notes or doing research in class if appropriate. But an irresponsible few could ruin it for everyone.

Distracted students are a phenomenon that predates the laptop computer. For as long as there have been lecture classes, there have been students staring out the window, staring at the clock and staring at the girl dressed like a model for an 8 a.m. class. There have been students doodling and passing notes, and there have been students whose hearts and minds are 1,000 miles away.

But these things are not as disruptive. They aren’t distracting to the person behind you or to the professor who can clearly see you’re using your computer and yet you’re not engaged or taking notes. And no, it’s not really anybody’s business that you’re making plans for a hookup later tonight. But it’s more distracting than you might think.

We hope Northeastern will not see fit to ban laptops from the classrooms, but more importantly, we hope students will have enough respect to use them responsibly. College students waste more than enough time on the Internet without doing it during class. With the amount of money you’re paying for every hour you sit in class, you might as well pay attention. Who knows, you might even learn something.

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