A pair of high-profile articles published in recent years has had educators buzzing about technology’s place in the classroom.
New York Magazine leads the charge, in The Case Against Laptops in the Classroom. The story shares the experiences of three prominent university professors, each of whom have banned laptops and other electronic devices in their lectures. Though only anecdotal, each instructor notes that after students’ initial resistance faded, class sessions became more interactive. Without a digital device in hand, the subconscious pull “just to check in” on social networks, email, or any number of other distracting sites is eliminated, and students can truly be present for class.
With a different take on the subject, a recent Quartz article looks into the efficacy of individualized instruction versus standardized content. Though the author takes pains to clarify that technology is an invaluable teaching aid when used properly, the story (titled We Cannot Rely on the Internet to Teach Our Children) focuses on research that finds that students who receive individualized instruction typically perform two standard deviations — fully 98% on average — better than those who don’t. Technology can present information, it seems, but only a real-life teacher can impart knowledge.
These articles may appear at first to be anti-technology, but that’s not quite true. What they are is pro-teacher.
Technology has earned a place in the learning experience, with established value as a reference resource and training ground. But no technology can replace the value of a great teacher — one who helps students find connections, challenges them to apply concepts, and pushes them to dig deeper and reach further in pursuit of true understanding.
Today, in-class time represents only a fraction of the total hours a student will spend on a class’s activities, readings, and assignments. As such, many teachers have concluded that for those few invaluable minutes when students are all together, even momentary Facebook-enabled distractions are simply too great a loss. Banning technology in the classroom is a step towards making the most out of interactive learning time, pulling every student into discussions and activities, and creating the opportunity for instructors to help each student individually.
Of course, while student technologies may distract, a number of teachers are finding there is one worthwhile exception to all-out digital bans. Video has become the one technology in the classroom that can help keep other technology out of the classroom. We’re biased, of course, so we’ll let Stonehill College’s Bronwyn Bleakley share her experience instead:
Related Reading: Why I Flipped My Classroom
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