Proposed Classroom Laptop/Device Usage Policy

Instructors are free to adopt or modify this proposed policy as they see fit.

By Patrick Lam and Derek Rayside, 2017.


paper or text-oriented programs only in first 4 rows of class.

Full Text

The human visual system has evolved to perceive saber-toothed tigers
in the savannah. Fortunately, tigers are rare in Waterloo, Ontario.
Unfortunately, your classmates are still human and hence their
attention will be drawn to flashing lights (or Facebook, or movies, or
video games) in their peripheral vision. We'd like to encourage
everyone to be respectful of their classmates and to not distract them.

Wise use of computers and the Internet can be helpful for fully
engaging in class. You might want to try out some syntax, or you might
want to look up C++ constructors, or you might want to verify your
instructor's somewhat outrageous-sounding claim.

To support the benefits of the Internet while reducing distractions,
we will adopt the following policy in this class. I am asking that the
first 4 rows of class be text-oriented: if using a device, use a
command prompt or text editor, maximized to the whole screen. Paper is
always good, of course. Mac OS X and UNIX command prompts are probably
your best bet; for those of you on Windows, you can use the Windows
Subsystem for Linux. From the command prompt, you can use compilers
and text-mode web browsers (w3m, lynx, links/elinks, etc....) tmux may
also be helpful in managing multiple terminal sessions. Being
proficient with the terminal is a highly-useful skill for a Software

I acknowledge that lectures are not always engaging. Instead of
distracting screen content, I recommend non-distracting ways of tuning
out, like doodling on paper (while taking notes), or doing homework. There is some scientific evidence that doodling helps alleviate boredom and improve concentration and memory retention. (I also recommend passing notes to each other on paper instead of talking or electronic messaging --- this is what your grandparents did!)

If you need to sit towards the front of the class and use a GUI
program, then please come to the SE Office to register
yourself as an exception. We will distribute the exception list to
instructors for all core SE courses (so you do not have to register
your exception for each individual course). If you sign up for
the exception list, we'll ask to you agree to not display games,
videos, or social media on your screen (unless it is part of the

Enforcement is a sensitive issue, especially given the existence of
exceptions. We are primarily asking each of you to respect the policy
on your own. But, if you see someone with games, videos, or social
media in the terminal zone, you can politely bring it up with them.