“No, Banning Laptops Is Not the Answer”

“a good case can be made that students can learn — or, more precisely, can be taught — to take notes effectively on their laptops, iPads, or other such devices. As Jeff McClurken has rightly argued, for most students the “problem isn’t which device (pencil, laptop, phone, quill) they use to take those notes, but how to take them and how to use them to learn.” We as faculty could use the presence of laptops in the classroom as an opportunity to help students better understand how to learn, how to take notes (whether by hand or on a device), and how to learn from the process of taking notes.
For academics arguing in favor of electronic note-taking, the implication is, as Kevin Gannon provocatively put it in a May blog post: “Let’s Ban the Classroom Technology Ban.”
It probably comes as no surprise that the most eloquent arguments against laptop bans have come from those who work in educational technology, or who research and write about educational technology. I find it equally unsurprising that the most ardent advocates of laptop bans are working faculty members flummoxed by the growing problem that these devices present in the classroom…
The classroom should serve as an active laboratory of learning, a place where students engage with the course material through multiple cognitive streams.
If that applies to your classroom, as it should, then your laptop policy should vary, depending on what is happening that day in class. On the days when you provide first exposure to new information, let students use their laptops. Use the moment, as Jeff McClurken has argued, to teach students how to take notes most effectively on a computer (or invite someone from your campus teaching center to talk about that in your class).
But on days when you have asked students to work in groups, to debate opposing sides of a key issue, or to try their hand at solving some complex problem, you can tell them to put the laptops away.”
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