Not Banning the Laptop

Phew. After nearly six months working in a higher ed institution hearing over and over again about banning laptops from classrooms, this article, “The Futile Resistance Against Classroom Tech” by David M. Perry, a history professor from Dominican University, in The Atlantic  is a much needed voice of reason.

Perry argues that,  “The ‘networked world,’  she [danah Boyd] wrote, is here to stay. It’s up to teachers, then, to build networks of learning, solidarity, mutual respect, and even trust.”

It’s unrealistic to think instructors will be able to control the flow of information into the classroom and to students as technology progresses. Instead, Perry argues, there needs to be an understanding of changing of process and learning. Instead of taking verbatim notes, students need to summarize. Instead of calling out the student with a disability who actually does learn better with technology, allow everyone who learns better to use it.

I’d go one step further. I often hear about how students cheat with technology. I go back to one of the first things I learned when working with the K-12 community: if the assessment is one that can easily be completed by cheating, perhaps it isn’t a good assessment.

This is simplistic, I get it. It isn’t always practical. But good assessments that are authentic, real world and student-centered are hard to cheat on. You can’t just Google or copy the answer. Real work has to happen.

And yes, there are times when we all need to put away our technology and connect as humans. But there are times when technology can enhance that communication. Backchannel conversations can be productive, not distracting. They can allow the introverted student who would never speak up to have a voice.

Sometimes we do need to put the technology away. That’s fine. But sometimes, we are better for it. Higher ed has a lot to learn.

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