Laptops in the classroom are clearly a divisive issue as demonstrated by the NPR article on the different approaches to technology in the classroom. The conversation does seem to be very polarizing, but often times the different sides seem to be talking past each other. Of course laptops, much like other tools available in the classroom, have helpful applications in the classroom under the right circumstances, but I think when people discuss banning laptops they aren’t teaching a class that uses laptops as a tool or teaching aid. It seems strange then to take extremists positions when the use of technology in the classroom is self-evidently situational.
This gets at a larger issue that I’ve found intriguing during my professional development: Is it the job of the student to pay attention or the job of the professor to keep the attention of students? Should professors aim to reach only those that demonstrate interest and engage with the material, or is it necessary to make sure that every last student is engaged in the class?
I struggled academically during my undergraduate career, often times because I was on my laptop not paying attention. I eventually had to come to my own realization that doing such things wasn’t in my best interests and take responsibility for what was going on. Isn’t putting the onus on professors to be entertaining or to strive to keep the attention of all students merely absolving the responsibility of the student to take control of their own education? Students have always gazed off into the distance or daydreamed since time immemorial, why put the pressure or responsibility entirely on the professors?
Additionally, the exploration of the different methods of learning developed from video games or other types of problem-solving is an intriguing idea. As a “gamer” I recognize that there is an inherent drive to learn to master the mechanics of a game, to be able to adapt to different challenges to reach an ultimate goal. This can also be accomplished in board games or interactive/physical games, not just video games (if conferences in my particular academic concentration are anything to go by “simulations” and other game-like teaching methods are clearly becoming more popular and publishers/academic-focused companies are creating more and more products to meet that demand).
Ultimately, I do think that laptops could create better learning environments if used correctly, For instance, the introduction of games (both video and traditional) in the classrooms could create better outcomes than the traditional lectures. As a teenager, I developed an interest in history and politics through the video games I was exposed to and has led in many ways to a deeper understanding of certain historical events than I might otherwise have had if I had only learned about history through books or academic lectures. There would be some cool ways to incorporate games into courses to promote that type of active learning, but there will still always be students who aren’t interested in whatever form of teaching is being offered.
In the final analysis, some students like lectures and others hate it, the same goes for video games or other methods of learning. It’s unclear how this tension could be resolved or how any clear cut distinction about what teaching method is “better” could be made given these issues.
Please let me know your thoughts on this issue, I’m legitimately curious to hear what other people think about the different approaches to learning and class management.