I am pretty sure that whoever wrote this staff editorial for the Indiana Daily Student was being sarcastic with the claim that banning laptops in classrooms could have “potentially catastrophic consequences,” but the issue of allowing students to use laptops in class is not as clear-cut as the IDS editorial would suggest.
First, there is evidence that laptops not only hinder learning for the students who are using them, but also interfere with the students around the laptop user. This makes sense – browsing Facebook on a computer screen is going to be more visible to surrounding students than doodling in a notebook or working on a crossword puzzle.
I do not think it is necessarily appropriate to ban laptops all together, but students should be expected to be adults. Expecting students to not check Facebook for fifty minutes is not too much to ask. I took a class for fun a few years ago, and the professor’s laptop policy was simple: Students were allowed to use laptops but were expected to use them for class work. If they were caught on Facebook, they would be told to close their laptop. If the privilege was consistently abused, all laptops would be banned.
I am sure that for some students, laptops can be useful. But that usefulness must be combined with respect for fellow students, as well as respect for the professor’s authority. A little common courtesy goes a long way.