Their good will aside, many professors even suggest reverting back to the mighty pen and paper, insisting that the act of writing itself will enhance learning more than typing — an act they consider to be “too passive.” However, the question at hand is hardly whether or not technology is helpful to learning. The question is: If instructors must resort to punishing students to keep them from using technology inappropriately, what does it say about their courses? Is the real reason that instructors find it too hurtful that students find screens more engaging than their lectures? Or do they genuinely believe that students on laptops or iPads will “distract others”? Is it even their responsibility to make sure that students are paying attention?
It seems reasonable to give students the benefit of the doubt and assume they possess a desire to succeed. Student Shane Longway, who insists that he “should be allowed to use computers to take notes” and that he does not think it is the professor’s responsibility to make sure students pay attention.
I also think, however, that situations can vary. Technology is not necessarily a right to which that all students are entitled in every type of class.
But is starting off a course “technology-free” with the assumption that students will use laptops inappropriately consistent to Pepperdine’s resolve that the student is a “person of infinite dignity” or the “heart of educational enterprise”? Will perfectly constructed learning environments without any forms of distraction adequately prepare students to “lead purposeful lives as servant-minded leaders”?
I may be underplaying the role of the instructor. Junior Alexander Booker insists that since it is the job of the instructor to teach a subject, the instructor should use everything in his or her power to make learning possible. He equates this to a patient telling a doctor that he cannot be forced to take medication.
However, under the assumption that it is one of the professor’s obligations to make sure students pay attention, I am open to the possibility that making students pay attention can take place in more constructive forms. Some professors hold insight so absorbing that students cannot help but to listen. Is that not the education that we hope and pay for? The main distinction is that too many instructors mandate attendance, ban technology and spend class time regurgitating the textbook or PowerPoints.
But the blame does not end there. Many students only come to class to spend time on Facebook. Regardless of the professor’s ability to engage the material in insightful or sophisticated ways, the pursuit of wisdom or knowledge — or even decent grades — should not be too lowly of a pursuit.
At any rate, the mere fact that instructors feel obligated to ban technology calls for a change in the community as a whole to rethink the way we approach learning — even if it means questioning the role of professors and students.
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