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Laptops in Meetings and Classes-It’s About Attention and Application

by Tris Hussey on August 29th, 2007

When was the last time you were in a meeting or at a conference when less than half of the people in the room had computers with them?  I, honestly, would have to go back probably seven years.  Today laptops in meetings are almost de rigueur, but does that make this a good thing?  I’ve talked a bit on my blog about laptops in the classroom (February 2007: The technology in classrooms debate never seems to end! and March 2006: No laptops in my classroom!) and some of the same discussions apply here.  I caught an article in the NYT featuring Dean Hachamovitch of the IE at MSFT:

Everyone has their own way of handling the laptop question when running a meeting. When it’s me, I may sometimes glance over people’s shoulders to see if their screens look topic-related. Or if I see people buried in their laptops, I may ask for their opinions to see if they’re engaged.

Some speakers start a meeting with “Laptops off, please.” Others might chirp, “Excuse me, we’re having a meeting here,” if people are making more eye contact with their screens than with the speaker. Once, one of my bosses slammed the lid of my PC down in a fury because he thought I wasn’t paying attention.

Tablet PCs — the kind that sit flat on your lap and are used with a stylus instead of a keyboard — seem to be more socially acceptable. Maybe it’s because there isn’t a big dark rectangular barrier that you’re putting up between yourself and the speaker. Maybe it’s because we all grew up taking notes with paper and pen, so it’s more familiar. In any case, you can still do your e-mail, get an I.M. about dinner plans, pay your bills or surf. Source: Minding the Meeting, or Your Computer? - New York Times

I was hard pressed to pick out a nice juicy quote (as you know that is my style after all) … it is a thought-provoking article.  How present are we in class, a meeting, a conference session when we’re madly typing notes or live blogging?  This doesn’t even get into tuning out to listen to the back channel.

There isn’t an easy answer here.  I will state here that it is all in how you use the tool.  I’ve taken wicked good notes in MindManager that became something the team used for a long time later as the core of later strategy documents.  I’ve also frittered away time in boring meetings chatting with friends or reading feeds.  Now, am I making good use of my time or being rude?

Live blogging at conferences, which is something I do a lot of, something that is really hard to do.  So hard in fact that when I’m at Office 2.0 next week, I’m going to try not to.  I’m going to take notes (probably in OneNote) and blog later.  Might might take longer to get posts up, but maybe they will be better.

As kids today become used to using computers in class, I see whole dynamics evolving around how to use laptops well.  Of course back in the day during a boring class I’d spend time doodling in the margins of my paper … so I guess some things never change.

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POSTED IN: Technology and Society, Innovation

1 opinion for Laptops in Meetings and Classes-It’s About Attention and Application

  • Rachel Clarke
    Aug 30, 2020 at 8:02 pm

    Laptops in meetings are still rare in the ones I go to. They’re usually only there for putting up the display, not for taking notes in the meeting. But I;d never go to a conference without one!

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