The advent of lightweight notebooks with decent battery life will be the downfall of higher education. Here are a few things I’ve done during various classes this semester:

  • Played Civilization IV, including starting a nuclear war with a country being discussed in class.
  • Wrote an email to the professor of the class I skipped early that morning, explaining that I was sick.
  • Created an Excel spreadsheet estimating the budget for my new job, assuming I managed to graduate.
  • Wrote a blog post.
  • Played Majong Titans and Solitaire–SIMULTANEOUSLY.
  • Illegally downloaded music.
  • Chatted with several people on facebook.
  • Updated my facebook status to alert friend as to how boring my class was.

I’ve also had several laptop-related awkward moments in class, like the time I failed to mute the computer before pressing play on a hilarious youtube video. Or the time I looked up from my furious typing to discover–already unjustifiable since no one ever took notes in the class–to realize the entire room was silent and the professor was looking at me.

I’ve heard it said that a single class period at my school costs about $55. I figure I’ve taken my computer to about 1/3 of my classes over the last year. It’s fair to say that I’ve derived at least 75% less educational value from each of those classes, so I’d guess that my laptop has cost me roughly $5,000. Multiply that by every other student with a computer in class, multiplied by students at universities accross the country…I think we could pretty much pay off the national debt by banning laptops.

I’m not alone. A survey of Georgetown Law Students showed 80% of them were more engaged without laptops in the class, and 95% said they had used laptops “for purposes other than taking notes.” I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise. Of course, if lectures weren’t so often just regurgitations of reading material students like me would probably be (a little) less inclined to ignore them. Some guy at Princeton has some helpful tips.