Friend or Foe? Evaluating your relationship with laptops in the classroom

For years, educators have debated whether they should ban students’ laptops from their classrooms. Proponents argue students use this technology in class to foster classroom discussion and strengthen the overall educational experience. Critics suggest laptops are nothing more than machines of distraction that disconnect students from the class and limit their success.

These critics have a little extra ammo in the form of a recent study at West Point. Economists at the school banned laptop use in randomly selected sections of a popular economics course. One third of the sections could use laptops or other technology to take notes, one third could only use it to look at class materials, and one-third couldn’t use them at all.

The investigators found that students who did use laptops scored worse on the final. Smarter students in this group especially struggled compared to their counterparts in the no-laptop groups. The researchers concluded that while they expected the smarter students to use their laptops effectively, they instead because the biggest victims of the technology.

However, for those of us teaching media-focused courses, taking laptops completely out of the classroom may not be the answer. More and more of our lessons plans involve topics related to social media, multimedia, and other technologies. Students with laptops can engage in material and be more active participants in class. So maybe it’s not a matter of eliminating the distraction, but instead turning the distraction into a classroom enhancement.

While there are countless ways you can do this, I would like to offer just a few suggestions to get you started, largely based on a report by the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Michigan.

  1. Establish a clear, specific laptop policy.

Educators vary in the type of policy they establish – everything from a complete ban to no limitations at all. More and more are migrating to something more in the middle – such as allowing laptops but requiring students to turn off their wireless connection during class. Whatever you choose to do, it’s important to establish and enforce your policy from the first day of class.

  1. Establish a “laptop-free zone.”

If you do decide to allow the use of laptops within your class, you could consider establishing a portion of the class as a “laptop-free zone” for students who don’t like being distracted by classmates on their laptops.

  1. Set aside time for laptop use.

If you’re like me, you hesitate to completely ban the use of laptops in class

because there are student who genuinely like to use them to take notes

during class discussions. In an attempt to compromise, I will specify certain times when the laptops can be used for note taking and other times when they won’t be needed. Also, in many instances, I make electronic versions of my lecture notes available after class on our course website. This eliminates pressure my students may feel to write down everything they see on the PowerPoint. Along those lines, consider outlining on your syllabus calendar days that students will be using technology in class and/or days it won’t be necessary.

  1. If you can’t beat them, join them.

Some educators have found it is more effective to integrate students’ technology use into their lesson plans rather than ban them. They focus on getting the students engaged by employing a wide range of strategies, from using cellphones as clickers to assigning students to conduct on-the-fly research during class. So instead of fighting against the laptops, use them to your advantage.

  1. Be flexible.

No two classes are the same, and no class is the exact same from one semester to another. So you may find that you need to adjust your stance on laptops to best meet the needs of the class and your students. That’s okay. Just identify an approach that works best for the situation at hand, recognizing that it may need to change in future semesters.

Laptop use in the classroom will continue to create issues that are not going away anytime soon. They may even increase as the technology evolves. So it’s important that we as educators try to stay ahead of this trend as we work to provide students with the most valuable learning experience. It may require a change in thinking – abandoning the belief that laptop use is stifling our students’ learning and replacing it with the view that this and other technology use can help reform our teaching moving forward.

Kris Boyle is an Assistant Professor at the School of Communications at Brigham Young University and the Professional Freedom and Responsibility Chair


Best of the Web/Digital Competition

The “Best of the Web/Best of Digital” competition is an annual Web and app design contest for members of the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication. The competition is offered as a collaboration between the Communication Technology and Visual Communication divisions of the AEJMC.

Submission deadline is April 12, 2016. For more information please click here.

Also, if you are interested in serving as a judge for the competition please contact Cindy Vincent at cvincent2 (at) salemstate (dot) edu.

AEJMC 2016 Midwinter Conference Update


By Pamela J. Brubaker, Ph.D., Brigham Young University

Emerging research from CTEC

February 26-27, 2016

Using social and online media to inform and stay informed

What does social media change? The influence of social media on public affairs news gathering in China (by Liefu Jiang, University of Kansas)

Interviews with students at Chinese universities indicated information seeking, entertainment and socialization are motivations driving students’ use of social media for accessing public affairs news. Chinese students were more likely to access news through their mobile phones.

Campaigning in the age of social media: A content analysis of Twitter use by presidential primary candidates during the 2016 campaign (by Sam Dunklau, Caitlin Slone & Jordan Furiosi, Augustana College)
During the 2016 U.S. presidential primary elections, presidential frontrunners used Twitter as a means of updating their support base with timely, original statuses. Significant differences in the use of Twitter by male and female presidential primary candidates as well as Republican and Democratic candidates were identified, with male candidates more likely to tweet about specific issues and engage in mudslinging than female candidates.

Engaging with social images & video

Top Abstract: Using Instagram to engage with (potential) consumers: A study of Forbes most valuable brands’ use of Instagram (by Jacqueline Skarda-Mitchell, Oluseyi Adegbola, Sherice Gearhart & Althea McMickell, University of Nebraska at Omaha)

Researchers conducted a content analysis of Instagram posts affiliated with companies on the 2014 Forbes Most Valuable Brands list to determine which features drive audience engagement. The data showed audience engagement increases when both products and logos were featured together as well as when hashtags were present in the captions.

Snapchat: A content analysis of themes in screenshots (by Kaitlyn Skinner, Baylor University)

A content analysis of Snapchat screenshots identified in a Google search revealed eight different types of content posted by users (in order of most used): selfies, conversation, nudity or suggestive content, doodles and stickers, status update, humor/parody, internet ugly, and location or geofilter. The results highlight the social aspects of this platform, which is to build relationships.

A theoretical explanation of forming implicit and explicit brand attitudes toward viral video advertising: Effect of emotional tone in messages (by Rahnuma Ahmed, Doyle Yoon & Nazmul Rony, University of Oklahoma)

This proposed study is aimed at contributing to the literature on implicit and explicit attitude formation about brands. The researchers plan to conduct an experiment that explores how viral video ads work and how communicators can make the ads more effective. The study is in development.

Developing more effective communication messages and measurements

Who moved my metrics? New impact measures for journalism and communication research (by Karen Antell, Jody Bales Foote & Joe Foote, University of Oklahoma)

Researchers discussed metrics, other than impact factors, for evaluating electronic-only and open-access journals in six disciplines. Specifically, the value of Google Scholar’s h5-index was highlighted as it provides an impact measure for all journals indexed by Google Scholar. This measure gives researchers a metric to use for gauging the journal’s impact, particularly when the journal is not listed in the annual Journal Citation Reports. Such metrics are increasingly being used to evaluate scholarly impact for the purposes of hiring, tenure, and promotion

Important Tweets matter: Predicting retweets in the #Blacklivesmatter talk on Twitter (by Kate Keib & Itai Himelboim, University of Georgia)

This study utilizes the #Blacklivesmatter movement to examine the role emotion plays in social sharing. Results show that by injecting emotion into the conversation, or in this instance a Tweet, content is more likely to spread.

A theoretical explanation of psychological reactance toward anti-e-cigarette messages on health websites: Effect of perceived message sensation value (PMSV) and restoration postscript (by Rahnuma Ahmed, Doyle Yoon & Nazmul Rony, University of Oklahoma)

In order to create effective anti-e-cigarette messages on interactive platforms like health websites the researchers intend to examine the impact of perceived message sensation value (PMSV) and restoration postscript within a message in order to see if these variables help reduce psychological reactance toward anti-e-cigarette messages. The study is in development.

A new kind of newsletter

Bart Wojdynski, Division Head

Hello, CTECers, and welcome to Bitstream! This will now be your online home for all things CTEC news.

As many of you who have been loyal members for years know, our division has traditionally published a thrice-yearly newsletter in PDF form that served as our way of passing on to you paper calls, important division information, discussion of timely topics in teaching or professional freedom and responsibility, and other issues related to the ways in which technology and communication interact dynamically to shape our lives.

However, we also know from talking to you over the years that taking the time to open and read the whole PDF newsletter was… well, something that you did somewhat seldom. So, after discussing our plan with AEJMC Council of Divisions in San Francisco last year, we have decided to re-vamp our newsletter into a blog-style page on our website, available at

We are excited about replacing our PDF newsletter with Bitstream for several reasons:

1) We’ll be able to bring you content and updates from our officers in a more timely fashion, without you having to wait until the next newsletter is sent out.

2) We’ll be able to link directly to specific articles through our social media accounts, which not only serve as entry points to our content for many of our members, but also will help our best content be easily re-shared to a broader audience.

3) In addition to articles written by our officers, we’ll also have another way of passing along other interesting paper calls, journal calls, job listings, and news articles

4) We’re also excited about bringing you some new forms and types of content — look for it throughout the spring and summer!

Oh, and if you do prefer your CTEC news bundled and archived by season? Don’t fret – all of our articles will still be compiled into seasonal archive pages for the Spring, Summer, and Fall.

Lastly, for all of our members, don’t be shy about contacting us if you’d like to contribute to Bitstream, too! This is certainly not designed to just be a top-down, officers-only outlet. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at, or to our Website and News Chair, Mike Horning at, and we’ll find a way for you to contribute as well!


Bartosz W. Wojdynski is an Assistant Professor at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, where he heads the Digital Media Attention and Cognition Lab.


The Gene Burd award is made possible through the generous support of Dr. Gene Burd of the University of Texas at Austin and honors the best faculty research presented in the Communication Technology Division for the year.

Showing off Where I am? The Interplay of Personality Traits, Self-disclosure, and Motivation on Facebook Check-ins
Shaojung Sharon Wang, Institute of Communications Management, National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan

Facebook Use and Political Participation
Gary Tang, Lap Fung The Chinese University of Hong Kong

The Extended iSelf: The Impact of iPhone Separation on Cognition, Emotion,
and Physiology During Cognitive Tasks
Russell Clayton and Glenn Leshner, Missouri

Feeling Happy or Being Immersed? Advertising Effects of Game-Product Congruity in Different Game App Environments
Shaojung Sharon Wang; Hsuan-Yi Chou, National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan


Don’t forget! Our business meeting will be Saturday, August 8 from 7-8:30 p.m. in Pacific A. We look forward to seeing you there!

CTEC Summer Newsletter Now Available


Photo by: Carol Lin

As you enjoy the sites and sounds of San Francisco at this year’s AEJMC conference, be sure to catch up on division news and announcements in our summer newsletter. We look forward to seeing everyone at the CTEC business meeting, Saturday, August 8.