In each of the last two quarters, I’ve had a professor who doesn’t allow technology in class.
In the summer quarter, anyone using a phone would be reprimanded, and anyone using a laptop was forced to have it inspected at the end of class to ensure they’d been using it to take notes rather than to mess around on social media. This term, the stakes have been raised. My new professor deducts 5 percent off a student’s final grade if they catch them using any kind of technology during class.
I definitely think that professors have good intentions when making this decision. Usually, they want students to pay attention in their lecture, rather than playing games, talking to their friends or browsing social media. They think that taking away these “modern distractions” creates a class environment where students are more likely to actively participate and learn. It’s worth noting that all the professors I’ve encountered who enforce this are older, and went to college in a time where technology was not available in the classroom.
However, I personally think that a no technology policy is a strong detriment to learning.
Computers, tablets and phones are so much more than a new way for students to take notes. Access to the Internet — which is available in all Drexel classrooms for a reason, people — means that if someone misses a fact or needs extra clarification on something, they can look it up quickly and easily. Just this morning, I had a friend message me on Facebook during class to ask me to explain something to him, since it was related to my major. The whole class didn’t have to be disrupted to go over the topic; he understood something he would have been confused about if he didn’t have access to technology, and helping him meant the information was more firmly embedded in my memory, too. Everyone benefited.
The use of technology in classrooms can also help people who, for any reason, have trouble with traditional note taking. My girlfriend has carpal tunnel and can’t handwrite for long periods of time without being in a lot of pain, but finds typing easier. People with dyslexia or dyspraxia also struggle to write quickly with a pen and using a computer can help them. When a professor combines a technology ban with a refusal to put lecture materials on Blackboard Learn, coming to class and taking notes is the only way to learn the material. People with ADHD can use their phone to play a mindless game that occupies their hands and allows their mind to concentrate on the lecture. It seems incredibly unfair that such people have less of a chance of doing well just because they have a professor who is stuck in the 1950s and has a vendetta against Facebook.
There is also an element of hypocrisy in some professors who go technology-free. I’m sure everyone’s had at least one professor who has said they ‘treat their students like adults’. My anti-technology professor this term has used this exact phrase. How are the students being treated like adults if they are not even being trusted to make their own decisions on how it’s best for them to take notes and learn the material?
Computers and phones are amazing. They’re constantly being improved and new models being released because they make our lives better, not worse. We are incredibly lucky to live in a time where so many resources to help with our classes are literally at our fingertips — and when walking into class on the first day of the term, students expect to be able to use these things to aid their learning, if they so choose. I think this expectation is fair. There are so many potential benefits to including technology in the classroom and if a student doesn’t want to pay attention in class? They’ll always find a way. After all, how many penises did you see scratched into the desks in your high school?