I have debated for quite some time now how I was going to approach this blog entry, because I truly am trying to have an open mind and want people to share their opinions about this controversy, but it’s REALLY hard for me to channel any empathy for the tribe of instructors described below.
In short, a few bad eggs in classes that surf their eBay bids or FaceBook page during class are causing many faculty to ponder whether they should ban laptops from classes. The University of Chicago Law School, for example, recently removed Internet access in classrooms because of concerns about students surfing the Web during class.
I happen to be taking some Instructional Technology and Educational Psychology classes, and in large part, the Instructional Technology courses are awash in technology…if someone saw something they wanted to share in class but couldn’t remember the details or name, etc., we are usually all online looking the information up. We surf to find opposing views to those offered in class, and quite often perspectives and facts that would have otherwise been left out find place in class discourse due to the instant access to the Internet.On a personal level, my laptop is a trusted note taking tool, in addition to the points made above.
A professor I had last semester had a bad experience with her undergraduates and laptops, banned them, and noticed a dramatic change in her classes. She then decided that she would do the same thing with her Educational Psychology graduate course on CMC, (a course full of 30 and 40-somethings), due to seeing someone in class doing e-mail next to her and her being distracted by the typing sound. Needless to say, I was very upset. I simply cannot keep up when trying to write by hand, and the Internet access allows me to better challenge points raised in class that need challenging. I think I understood her position, but I didn’t agree with the policy.
When I put on my teacher cap, I can understand the urge for faculty to ban everything they can’t control, including the technology of the time. We’ve all heard the stories of the ballpoint pen being banned by faculty in the late 1940’s in favor of the fountain pen and the calculator in the 1950’s in favor of the slide rule. Faculty do have legitimate authority to control the classroom environment, and to eject students from class for anything they choose, including staring at a laptop screen instead of the professor, I guess.
Of course, the first things that come to my mind go something like this: How good of a teacher can you be if your students would rather surf Facebook than pay attention to what’s going on in your class? Why aren’t you looking for ways to have your students use those laptops for legitimate classroom purposes?
We have all ostensibly made the jump from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side”, but I wonder, because some faculty seem to lack the impulse control to stay away from the notion that they are the sage/gatekeeper/dispenser of the wonders of the discipline, and this urge to ban technology from classes is a glaring example of that. If you don’t merit your students’ interest, you certainly won’t get it by banning their laptops.
That brain-dump having been executed, I truly want to see how all of you feel about this, especially those who favor a ban, because I truly want to understand what I apparently don’t now.
I’m begging for your comments!