Wireless in the Classroom: Advice for Faculty

You may be teaching a large lecture and look out into your audience and see 10 or 20 students using laptops. Some may be using them to take notes, while others may have needs which require adaptive technology such as a laptop to perform well in a classroom setting.

The following are some strategies to help you set expectations and reduce distractions:

Set Ground Rules for Wireless Use in the Classroom

A few ground rules may make for a better experience in a wireless-enabled classroom. Here are some suggested guidelines; modify them to suit your needs.

  • Set a "no laptop time." Have periods during class where laptop users must close their lids.
  • Note: special needs students may require exceptions to this rule; ask them to discuss these needs with you.
  • State that laptops and cell phones are prohibited during test times.
  • Establish consequences for inappropriate laptop use, just as you would for cheating.
  • Encourage your students to be mindful of how they use their laptops. Empower them to stop inappropriate use (such as viewing inappropriate web sites) by speaking directly to their peers.

Establish Laptop Etiquette

A few stated standards of laptop etiquette given at the beginning of class (with periodic reminders) may help to foster a positive environment.

  • Be sure your sound is off at the beginning of class.
  • Stay on task. Activities such as surfing or gaming may be a distraction to classmates.
  • Follow all "laptop prohibited" times.
  • Listen to your classmates if they complain that your use is distracting.
  • For more ideas, see the Advice for Students.

Best Practices for Using Wireless in Teaching

Here are more suggestions for getting the best experience out of teaching in a wireless-enabled classroom.


  1. Laptops and other e-learning strategies appear to be most effective when they are used in combination with teaching methods that rely on increased student participation. The key is to create active-learning opportunities, and not to resort to passive-learning methods.
  2. Have a screen-up and screen-down time.
  3. Consider walking into the audience periodically.
  4. Make sure you are well-versed in the software that you are going to use. Have a backup plan in case technology fails.


  1. Laptops are well-suited to recording the activities of team projects in-class.
  2. Increase your student-to-student and student-to-teacher interactions to support a more active-learning approach.
  3. Have a good mix of in-class and out-of-class activity and weave the two so each is present in each setting.


  1. Seek feedback from your students.
  2. Consider pursuing a scholarly investigation of the changes you make. Collaborate and share your discoveries.
  3. Take time out to reflect on your own progress in creating a meaningful learning experience.

Source: Best Practices for an e-Classroom

Used with permission of University of Wisconsin-Madison, http://www.doit.wisc.edu/network/wireless/advice_fac.asp.