Laptop Control

Chase W


Laptop control inside of a college lecture hall is becoming an increasing problem with today’s technologically savvy generation. Technology itself is changing so rapidly that some can’t keep up with all the new ways that technology is being used in the modern world. There are many questions that arise when people look into this issue that create the need for new technologies to be invented that will help to control the use of these technologies, just as they are being created to outdo the previous models. Laptops are on the top of this list of technologies that are creating some of the largest problems in today’s modern world. People have asked questions about why not just banning laptops in class all together, or not allowing wireless Internet access at college campuses. There are many ways to control the use of the laptop in a college classroom ranging from banning laptops complexly, to finding new ways to be in complete control over what is done with each and every laptop.

Banning Laptops
In an article called professor vs. laptop, written by Jeffery Young, the author talks about a recent national issue where a professor at the University of Memphis banned laptops from her classroom. (Young) Her argument for why she had banned the use of laptops from her classrooms was that they were “literally getting in the way of learning.” (Young) While teaching her lectures she could not make eye contact with the students that she was teaching due to the computer screen being open, However it was not only the laptop owners that where


looking at the screens but also their neighbors. (Young) The students of this class protested this ban on their laptops saying that they were being denied an up to date education, they even signed a petition saying just the same.(Young) Douglas Haneline, an English professor from Ferris State University, also commented on his own opinion on banning technology from the classroom, saying that “Its a matter of class consideration and of not disrupting the learning environment, I want to arrange it so there are as few distractions as possible.” (Young) “You’ll say something, and you’ll see these chuckles from a couple of people,” says Norman A. Garret, a professor at Eastern Illinois business school,“ is what I said funny, or are they not even in the same universe as I’m in because they ‘re looking at the internet?”(Young) These professors are not alone on their wishes to ban laptop use inside the college classroom, but could there also be a way to allow student to have their laptops but be able to control the sites that they could access?

The Kill Switch


In the same article the author begins to talk about Bentley College, where they have implemented the use of what is essentially a kill switch for the Internet use inside a lecture hall. (Young) This kill switch has five different settings in which to control everything. (Young) one setting allows students to use the Internet but not email, another allows the use of email but no Internet, The third allows only school based webpages but no Internet or email, and The final two settings either allow all to be accessed or none to be accessed. (Young) This information is useful because it could be used in schools world wide in order to negate all controversy over whether or not to ban laptops in the classroom or not. With this “kill switch” implemented in a school such as ours where many students use their laptops to take notes in class, this could be very useful to allow them to focus in class, and not be wandering on the internet instead. Phillip G. Knutel, the director of academic technology at Bentley College, says “Every time I give a tour, it clicks, and people say, ‘oh, my god, that’s exactly what we need.” (Young) This statement alone shows that just by a simple demonstration the need for such devices has grown increasingly large.
Another article “ Cutting the Power” begins to go more in depth about the sudden need for these types of controls in many schools around the United States, particularly inside of business schools. (Magan) However, having such a switch also comes with the constant want to outsmart the professor and try to re enable the Internet connection to the classroom without his knowledge. (Magan) This becoming an increasing problem forced teacher to try to hide their switches in closet and other places around the classroom, but the students would still find sneaky ways for them to turn the Internet back on. (Magan) This problem has caused some commotion saying that the switches should not be turning off the Internet but instead turning it on, that the Internet should be set to always default off, and the switch should turn on the connection. (Magan) Unfortunately for students, the kill switches are not their only worry, they also can have teachers who are able to persuade them not to use things such as email and such in class, by having all the laptops plugged into a hub and being able to snatch the emails as they are sent and projecting them on the screen for the entire class to see for themselves. (Magan) This technique only works when the computers are permanently installed inside of the lecture halls, and are all connected to the professors laptop, that can control each computer and what is being done on each one. (Magan) This can also be helpful for students to do things such as ask questions easily and get the classes input because the professor can projected the students screen on the projector for everyone to see and give their input. (Magan) Kenan-Flager Business schedule has a separate network based system that is set up so that the professor can control the computers plugged in to the hub as well as students personal laptops. (Magan) this allows the professor to control all ports to the internet in the class, so instead of having a kill switch, the professor sees a menu that has four choices o the computer he is using when they boot it up. (Magan) The four choices can allow students to access the Internet, but not their email accounts, it can shut off access to both, or throw the switch on all electronic distractions. (Magan)
Kill switches and other types of Internet blockers are not a necessity in all colleges because there are some that aren’t wired to allow laptop use in the schools such as University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. (Magan) Gerry McCartney, the associate dean for computing and technology at Wharton, is not happy with the idea that student need to be kept in line by a professor with their finger over a kill switch. (Magan) He says that “ I have no sympathy for that, these are adults. What is this? I’m taking your ball away and ill give it back too you when schools over? Wasn’t that 3rd grade?” (Magan) With this point professor McCartney is completely correct. Why must today’s youth be threatened into learning what the professor is lecturing about by having the Internet turned off in order to keep them focused?

Control at University of Colorado
At the University of Colorado laptops are a growing problem in many of the classes, especially in large lecture halls where there is much more freedom to do such things. From my own experiences in a college lecture hall I have noticed such things as people being on Facebook, web games, sending emails, and even skyping with someone while class is going on! For me this is very distracting and creates a problem in the lecture halls because it distracts me from focusing on the professor’s lecture while people around you and constantly switching their screens from webpage to webpage. Although banning laptops all together seems to be a very compelling argument, laptops are a wonderful way to take notes, while at the same time have lecture notes open at the same time in order to better follow what is the University of Colorado have also implemented ways to control the use of student’s laptops for class. Physics courses use a web browser called CAPA, which is a way to control where we are on the computer, and what we are using it for. They have also created a Website that has simulations that will simulate almost any of our physic work in a matter of seconds to give us a real life example of how it works. My astronomy class does allow the use of a computer in a classroom, but makes the students who choose to sit in the first three rows so that the students can be monitored by the TA, usually, and can keep them on sites that only pertain to the lecture.


Schools from middle school to universities are implementing the use of what are essentially mobile learning labs. These mobile learning labs are a network of a certain amount of computers all connected through the same cart that is connected to the professors computer and can help the professor to see what every student is doing while using the laptops in the class.

Mobile Classrooms


In an article called “class in a box”, written by Douglas Blane, talks about Apple Inc.’s new mobile classrooms. These mobile classrooms are a set of mobile computers that can all be controlled by the teacher. The teacher can see everything that the laptops are doing and every site that they have been too while being used by the students. This “mobile classroom” is very useful in the ways of controlling the classroom and how the student conducts their selves while in a learning environment. Every student in the class is given a laptop too use for the day, but leaves behind one of the laptops which is 2” larger than the rest and is used by the teacher and can control all the other students laptops at the same time. (Blane) while teaching and direct students the teacher can monitor each persons progress and be sure that every students stays together and doesn’t get lost while doing the work for the day. (Blane) they may also tutor individuals without the knowledge of the entire classroom, helping this student to ask questions and such without the awkwardness that some students feel asking for help. (Blane) Lee Carson, a teacher at Edinburg’s Queensferry private school says, “ the screen- sharing ability is very useful, if I see a child who is doing well I can say ‘lets all have a look at his screen’ and we can do so without anyone getting up and moving around. Another great feature is that I can send files to their computer and open them up for them.”(Blane) With this he says, “ I might use my laptop connected to the white board to start off a story with the class and produce the first paragraph. Then I’ll save it and send the file from my computer to theirs, where it will automatically open on their screens. They can keep going and write the rest of the story themselves.” (Blane) With this kind of control over what each student does on their own computers there is no need to be worried over a distraction being caused by the laptops because the professor is in complete control over everything that goes on in the class each day. (Blane) Along with the mobile classrooms Neo’s are being used in place of laptops and computers in some classrooms, and many teacher praise these devices for their ease of use, and benefits to instruction. (Dickenson) A Neo is a portable word processor with an LCD display, because of its small size and lightweight, students can take it just about anywhere such as the library to take notes, and even home. (Dickenson) The Neo can also send texts from Neo to Neo and from the Neo to the printer which creates a much more efficient way to do school work. (Dickenson) The machines are bought in a set of 30 with a central hub and portable cart which controls the Neo’s SmartApplets, or programs and functions. (Dickenson) The biggest advantage to the Neo systems is that they don’t come with the laptop price tag, but instead cost less than $8,000 for a set of 30 plus the cart hub, infrared printer, and the software, while 30 laptops can cost more than $21,000. (Dickenson)

There are many ways to control what students do on their laptops while inside a college classroom, but in todays society there are numerous ways to access the Internet throw more than just the wireless Internet available in the classroom. Is controlling wireless enough by itself to stop the distractions or do we need to invest in trying to find more ways to end all distractions available?


Young Jeffery. “ The Fight for Classroom Attention: Professor vs Laptop.” Chronicle of Higher Education. 52.39 (2006): Print. (Young)

Mangan, Katherine. "Cutting the power." Chronicle of Higher Education . 48.2 (2001): A43-6. Print

Blane, Douglas. "Class in a box." Times Educational Supplement. (2003): Print.

Dickenson, Mark. "It Isn't Just Another Laptop." Principal (Reston, Va.) . 86.3 (2007): 54-5. Print.

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