There have been a few articles recently on the use of technology in the classroom. Unlike the recent move to include more technology (such as having students use Twitter to ask questions/make comments in a live stream during class), these articles are talking about why they have removed technology from the classroom (something more along the lines of how I think). First, Anne Curzan talks about why she asks students not to use laptops in her class. Second, Louise Katz presents a classroom from fifteen years ago: one without cell phones.
What I really like about both of these is the way the professors explain their thinking, especially Curzan. Most people believe they can multitask, but studies since the mid-1800s have shown that we simply can’t do it. I hear people talk about how our brains will evolve, but they don’t seem to understand that evolution takes thousands of years. A species doesn’t evolve in a generation or two.
I don’t ban laptops, but my classes aren’t really designed for students’ having to take down copious amounts of notes; thus, I don’t have many students who use them to begin with. Cell phones, however, have always been banned in my classes, and I’ve gotten even more diligent about that this semester. They seem to be the device that distract students more than any other, and banning them has been quite helpful. I guest lectured in one of my colleague’s classes last semester, and she was surprised that I taught for seventy-five minutes and didn’t change activities once (and the students stayed right with me). She had been told that this generation must have those changes, given their short attention span. Without the technological distractions, they do quite well, I’ve found. As more and more of us limit the technology, they should do even better.