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After a decade of adding technology to the classroom, students asking for a laptop ban sent me on a journey of discovery. After a literature review of existing research and a semester of a no-tech policy, I found less tech, not more increases student engagement and learning. Despite more than a dozen studies over the last decade detailing the negative learning effects of laptops in the classroom, the majority of faculty believe that laptop use in class increases learning. I highlight the research findings, explain my experience with the new policy, and provide suggestions on how to attempt your own.

I think computers should not be allowed and people should have to take notes manually. —Student course evaluation comment, Fall 2021

After more than a decade of increasing technology use in the classroom, I noticed declines in student engagement. I sought solutions including adding even more technology, but after students asked for a laptop ban and a review of the research on the negative impacts on learning, I decided to implement a no laptop, smartphone, or tablet policy in my classes. Over the years, I have learned to decipher which student comments on evaluations I should take with a grain of salt and which I should do something about. When I first began teaching in 2008, a student comment “use more YouTube” helped me make my courses more engaging. Adding YouTube was just the beginning. Since that first course, my inclination has been to add more tech to my courses. I have used course blogs, student blogs, Twitter discussions, discussion boards, forums, online professional certifications, and in-class software use on laptops. Many instructors aim to speak their student’s language reaching them in ways they want to be reached. We often assume this means more technology. However, in my Fall 2021 semester evaluations, I received a surprising student comment, “I think computers should not be allowed and people should have to take notes manually.” Then I noticed a similar comment in a different course, “I would seriously consider limiting students’ laptop use during class because personally I am a multitasker and a stressor over other assignments and feel like I could learn SO much more if I was being held accountable to pay attention to in-class material.”

Keith A. Quesenberry is an associate professor of marketing at Messiah University. He has taught marketing, advertising, and communications classes at Johns Hopkins University, Temple University, and West Virginia University. Before academia, he was a copywriter and associate creative director in the advertising industry.


This is the accepted version for publication. Reuse is restricted to non-commercial and no derivative uses. Originally published as: Quesenberry, K. A. (2022). Engaging the Disengaged: Implementing a No-Tech Policy After Years of Adding Tech to the Classroom. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 77(3), 339–347.