Should We Ban Technology In Classrooms and Meetings?


Last Tuesday’s New York Times had an article on the downside of taking notes on a laptop.  The piece, Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meetingwas written by University of Michigan Professor Susan Dynarski who bans electronic devices in her classroom.  Dynarski cites research from Princeton, UCLA and a few other schools where students who were allowed to take notes electronically performed worse than students who took notes with a pen and paper.

A follow-up post on The Verge yesterday gave a great summary of the article. I especially liked the conclusion:

Writing things by hand is becoming less common as gadgets and speech recognition software continue to replace pen and paper, but it’s long proven that handwriting improves motor skills, memory, and creativity. So even though note taking with a laptop might be faster, you might want to think about how much information you’re retaining.

My final thoughts on this center around the idea that we need to take away the opportunity for the individual to make the choice on which method works best.  As students get to the later stages of high school and move on to college, shouldn’t they have the chance to choose the tool that works best for them?  If people become aware that their productivity drops when they take notes on a device, will they still choose to work in the same manner? Isn’t the process of figuring out what works and what doesn’t a critical part of the learning process?

I can’t help thinking about the Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment developed by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).  This framework includes “students’ self-evaluation and reflection on process and product integrated into the learning process and contributing to students’ continued growth.”

In short, we need to be careful that banning is not our default reaction. We will teach students a great deal if we help them be more introspective about what works best for them.


One thought on “Should We Ban Technology In Classrooms and Meetings?

  1. Hey Pal,

    First, hope you are well and happy! It’s been way, way too long.

    Second, while I’m not a fan of the notion of banning anything and while I agree completely that we need to help students to learn to monitor their attention and awareness when their devices are out, I AM leaning towards nudging my closest colleagues to leave their devices in the other room while we are having meaningful conversations in meetings.

    Here’s why: The minute a device comes out, everyone realizes that interruptions are inevitable — and worse yet, when colleagues turn to those interruptions in the middle of a meeting, they send the message that what’s happening BEYOND the meeting is more important than what is happening IN the meeting.

    It’s super demoralizing to team productivity when that becomes a norm — a common pattern of participation. Why invest in any meeting when you know full well that you aren’t the first priority of the people that you are meeting with?

    Now, that doesn’t mean that we won’t ever use devices. If we are editing a common assessment or developing a lesson or exploring a resource, our devices will all be open and working.

    But the minute that we shift into an important decision, I’m hoping that our norm will be screens turned down and phones put away.

    Any of this make sense?

    For me, it has more to do with the message we send to one another about our priorities when our devices are in front of us in meetings.

    Thanks for making me think today!


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