Is the laptop enabling or inhibiting learning?

April 26, 2010 at 9:41 am 6 comments

As a teacher, I definitely understand this phenomenon.  Yes, the laptop can really enhance learning.  But when 75% of your class has their laptops open in class, and 90% of those are on Facebook, there’s no opportunity for classroom learning.  Last week, I broke up my class into smaller groups, and I had to re-explain the activity to several students who had been sitting there the whole time, but in Facebook, so not really there.

As a culture, we’re at an odd crossroads regarding personal computers. For years, educators have been clamoring to put technology in the hands of young students through partnerships with big tech companies, best symbolized by the One Laptop Per Child initiative.

But by the time those kids grow up, they may well find university authorities waging a war on laptops in the classroom. In 2008, the University of Chicago Law School turned off Internet access in classrooms. At the University of Oklahoma, Dr. Kieran Mullen became an Internet sensation when a student recorded him freezing a laptop in liquid nitrogen and shattering it.

via The Blackboard Versus the Keyboard | The Big Money.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Frank McCown  |  April 26, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I feel your pain. I regularly teach in a computer lab, and I allow my students to use the computer during class with the stipulation that it *only* be used for class-related purposes. But the temptation is occasionally too strong, and I have to tell students to turn off their screens when they violate the policy.

    But I think the benefits outweigh the negatives. Some of my better students have been able to Google an issue we are talking about and make positive contributions to the conversation. Plus I like to tell my students to try something out or look something up on the spur of the moment.

  • 2. Garth  |  April 26, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    This sounds like a tech problem that can be solved with tech. Do not be stuck at the front of the room at the board. Get a touch pad and wander about while talking. One of our teachers now teaches from the back of the room using a touch pad and projector. He can see what they are writing for notes. He said it took a little getting used to but really likes the shift now. It is not the solution to everything but is a possibility. THere are also web filter solutions but I can see all sorts of freedom of speach protests now. Of course the best solution is to give them the grade they deserve.

  • 3. Ben  |  April 26, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I’ve started requiring some of my classes to post content on Facebook – video for Video Production and Notes for Publications class. It really galls them to use their “fun zone” for work but becomes exciting when adults outside the classroom begin to engage them in the learning process.

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  • 5. weilunion  |  April 28, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    As a distance learning professor I say distant learning distances speople from learning. but it does more than that, it segregates people into atomized individuals on some individual pursuit of knowledge.

    You can see my article on virtual charter schools, the new rat in town at by going to author’s posts, finding my name, Danny Weil, cllicking and then finding the aricle among the many I have written.

    It is a dangerous movement to depolitizcze and segregate the masses and it is a profit driven business by K12 Inc,. (William Bennet the gambler and Michael Milkin the ex-junk bond felon), Ignite! Learning (Neil Bush) as well as many more.

    It will reduce school to second life, community to hand held toys and laptop dreams.

    Technology is only a tool, it does not take the place of social relationhsips; in fact if it does not enhance them then they should not be used.

    In an age of narcism, disillusionment and obsession with self, these tools can be little more than mirrors of the past for the reflections of tomorrow.

    Danny Weil

  • 6. Aaron Lanterman  |  May 2, 2010 at 12:54 am

    It depends on how the laptops are being used.

    When I was on the institute computer ownership committee, the main argument for it had nothing to do with using them in a traditional classroom setting; the main argument was that, in many modern business environments, everyone is expected to carry their work around with them, on their “dynabook.” You see this all the time when you see people meeting at a Starbucks to conduct business.

    I usually have a laptops-down policy during lecture, and I’m fairly strict about it. But when someone comes to office hours wanting help with a program, I expect that they will have it running on their laptop so I can help them debug in real time.


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