Sail's Pedagogy

Sail's posts about her class, classes she is taking, and education.

Duke lets professors chose to ban laptops in classrooms

on January 28, 2012

This week in the Duke Chronicle, the daily newspaper, there was an article that I was shocked to see. Band laptops… I could not believe that an article like this would even be considered today. I hope one of your most esteemed alumni have not read this – Tim Cook — the CEO of Apple.

I guess those professors do not remember their days of sitting listening to the “sage of the stage”. I do or rather, I don’t…… I do not remember most of my classes nor my professors. That is how much impact they had on my life. I tired to take notes (this was before computers) but mostly I doodled and had many things going though my head. But I am not alone. Research in neurology has proven, we or our brains cannot concentrate for very long. We may have some periods of “flow” in which we are so engaged that we loose track of time. But I can guaranteed this rarely happens in the classroom, most of us are looking at the clock and counting the minutes.

As students day are taking online classes and using iPads or smart phones in their K-12 education, I can only imagine that they will be even less engaged in a classroom like this. I am not saying that all Duke professors are saying this or believe in this. Cathy Davidson (founder of HASTAC), Tony O’Driscoll (leader in virtual worlds), Steven Craig (whose chemistry class in one of the first on iTunes U.,) the Duke School of Nursing using virtual worlds to learn. At least your medical school and new cancer center are moving into the 21st century. Every student should be required to learn the skills necessary for their future – content creation, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity. How are you teaching your students these skills? One of the things that really struck me was when one of Duke’s students mentioned she could type much faster than writing notes.

I could give you a list of videos and article on the web that would show you how wrong you are, but you need a computer to read them. Howard Rhiengold, Sebastian Thrun, Khan Academy, Sir Ken Robinson, and Sugata Mitra, would be a real good start. In my opinion, professors should not be given this option. It should be a mandate by administration that computers need to be used by students in the classrooms, and it is up to the professors to keep your students engaged. I used to teach where all my students sat in front of computers in the classroom and online…. it is not that hard but you will have to change the way you think of yourself…. and your teaching ability. Students should be in the center and not the professors.

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