Tuesday Musing: Let’s Ban Bans in the Classroom

Feb 17, 2015 by

I recently read this article and I think it is a must read for educators.   John Jones references the recent change of position of new media guru, Clay Shirky, who now bans laptops in his college classroom.  Shirky based his decision on research that multitasking may decrease the attention dedicated to his lecture.  The question then becomes, “Why are students multitasking?”  I think the real issue lies in the instruction.  If students are engaged will they be multitasking?  If they are multitasking, is it related to activities that they know will help them learn?  For many years we have had the same system of instruction; lecture/notes, activity, study, quiz.  We are now in a position to dramatically increase student engagement and personalize instruction with the use of technology.  Educators can adapt instruction to engage students of varying learning preferences through the use of technology so. . . why wouldn’t we take advantage of those capabilities?  It is important to remember that instruction should be flexible to meet the needs of the student- not that students should be flexible to meet the needs of the teacher.  Technology affords many students the educational opportunities that they may not have had otherwise.   When we adopt a mindset of banning instead of empowering, we run the risk of not adequately serving all of our learners.

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  1. I always cringe when I hear the advice from our technology department if a student is “off task” during class. They advocate taking the device away. How does the student process in our 1-2-1 iPad environment if they don’t have the tool?

    If lessons are engaging and purposeful, created with the student as the number one priority rather than content as the number one priority, perhaps students will see the benefit of staying on task.

    I also realize that creating powerful, student centered lessons takes an unbelievable amount of time and that sometimes the lesson works, and sometimes it flops. As hard as I try to be engaging and purposeful I KNOW students will be off task. So we talk about it all the time and what being off task will mean to them and their grade. After all, being on task is their behavior and therefore their decision. Eventually, they need to decide to stay on task.

    • Jennifer- I love your comment. One of my favorite quotes is by Alfie Kohn… “If a child is off-task, perhaps the problem is not the child, but the task.” Keep up the great work you are doing!

  2. Dr. Cheryl Blau

    Years ago, when educators were first trying to decide whether or not to embrace computers as an instructional tool, one bold presenter shared the following historical anecdotes at an instructional technology conference:

    The More things Change…

    “Students today can’t prepare bark to calculate their problems. They depend upon their slates which are more expensive. What will they do when their slate is dropped and breaks? They will be unable to write!”

    Teachers Conference, 1703

    “Students today depend too much upon ink. They don’t know how to use a pen knife to sharpen a pencil. Pen and ink will never replace the pencil.”

    National Association of Teachers, 1907

    “Students today depend upon paper too much. They don’t know how to write on slate without chalk dust all over themselves. They can’t clean a slate properly. What will they do when they run out of paper?”
    Principal’s Association, 1815

    “Students today depend upon these expensive fountain pens. They can no longer write with a straight pen and nib, (not to mention sharpening their own quills). We parents must not allow them to wallow in such luxury to the detriment of learning how to cope in the real business world, which is not so extravagant.”

    PTA Gazette, 1941

    “When they run out of ink they will be unable to write words or ciphers until their next trip to the settlement. This is a sad commentary on modern education.”

    The Rural American Teacher, 1929

    “Ballpoint pens will be the ruin of education in our country. Students use these devices and then throw them away. The American virtues of thrift and frugality are being discarded. Businesses and banks will never allow such expensive luxuries.

    Federal Teacher, 1950

    Source: Tom Seidenberg (Eisenhower High School, Yakima, WA) Washington Mathematics 34 (1) Fall, 1989, p.8.

    • Thank you for sharing these, Cheryl. I share other anecdotes like this sometimes… progress is scary, sometimes. Keep doing your good work!

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