Lectures and seminars would be more bearable if you didn’t bring your laptop
We all know you’re not doing any work
We’ve all seen them – wave upon wave of softly glowing screens.
We’ve heard, too, the chorus of incessant tapping: a symphony of WhatsApp chatting and Facebook messaging punctuated every now and then by an actual note. These laptop enthusiasts are a staple of modern university life and they are the absolute worst.
They are an assault on all of your senses: the bright screens ruin your ability to see the lecturer, the infuriating sound of a thousand keys tapping non-stop is impossible to ignore and the stench of privilege is unbearable.
The laptop offers the image of the conscientious student, but those people you see tapping away at their laptops in lectures are often anything but: only when I stopped to check did I notice that only a tiny minority of screens weren’t filled with some kind of social media.
One student even had the audacity to sit in the front row and use her screen as a shield to mask the fact that she was on her phone – the screen itself, predictably, had Twitter open.
In an age where most lectures are captured and made available online (and many will, having done fuck all in the lecture, they’ll simply go home and re-watch it in their own time), it begs the question: why bother coming at all?
You have more free time than ever before to browse Facebook for funny videos of cats, so why come all the way to university to do it? Is this really worth the five figure debt you’re amassing?
It’s particularly infuriating in seminars, where the emphasis should be on discussion, for half of the room to be walled off by screens. Karen O’Brien, one of the Vice Principals at King’s, bans their use in her seminars.
She said: “There are lots of ways of bringing laptops and smart devices into the classroom and using them creatively for learning, and students who need them as part of an inclusion plan should always be allowed to do this if they need to.
“But for some small group discussions like the seminars I lead in English, it is really important to get everybody’s faces out from behind a screen and away from all the distractions. Learning through verbal dialogue is so important, it is as old as ancient Greece and still a key preparation for life. Sometimes we should all power down and speak up.”
You can see the logical appeal of recording notes on a computer: paper is easily lost and damaged, cumbersome to carry round and tedious to file. Equally, in an era when almost all information is electronically stored, managing your studies with your laptop is probably a good habit to get into. That being said, it’s just lazy.
Maybe I’m a goody-two-shoes. After all, sitting two feet from an academic expert you’re paying nine grand to listen to and ignoring them to copy and paste viral videos into your group chat might be the height of cool. But as far as I’m concerned, being a wasteman at uni isn’t cool at all – and sitting in a lecture and going on WhatsApp isn’t rebellious, it’s stupid.
So this week, try leaving your laptop and home and bring a pen and some paper instead. You’ll be a better person for it.