PHILADELPHIA. What once was a coveted educational aspiration — bringing computers into the classroom — is being questioned as university professors deal with the distractions of Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging.

Professors at Georgetown Law, American University and others have banned the use of laptops in class, a trend given increasing attention since a physics professor at the University of Oklahoma smashed a student’s laptop in a video posted on YouTube. The dramatic hoax demonstrated that in-class computer-use would not be tolerated. There’s plenty of voices in support of tech, too, but locally it seems educators are concerned about teaching practices, not policing technology.

Temple University has professors in both camps, says Pamela Barnett of the university’s Teaching and Learning Center. Laptops and smartphones can be distracting, but the larger issue is engaging students.

“Technology does make it easier to engage elsewhere, but I think it’s up to us to make sure students are involved in what we’re doing,” Barnett said. “They used to pass notes. Now, they post updates.”


Al Filreis, a literature professor at the University of Pennsylvania Kelly Writers House, urges students to put away their laptops in his class, but not because he believes technology ruins teaching.

“The problem isn’t our students, the problem is these institutions haven’t taken into account technology,” Filreis said.

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