I recently read an article about positive results (measured in test scores) when technology is banned in a classroom. As I’m prepping for Summer and Fall I’m becoming disturbed by this trend and the questionable data, and the longterm implications of these bans.
Questionable data? But the grades improved.
Years and years ago I was asked by an Instructional Designer what grades were for – the meaning of grades. This is a surprisingly tricky question. The easy – but incorrect or at least short-sighted – answer is to demonstrate learning. So measuring the success and effectiveness with increased grades (as averaged by students across the course(s)) seems like a good measure. Technology is banned and average grade on midterm increased from 70% to 80%. Seems like HUGE results, right?
Well……what was the status of technology before? How was technology used in the course? I could argue that my use of Twitter has increased average paper grades from 70% to 80% because of how I use it to support learning about writing. Because of the combination of my pedagogy and the research it’s developed upon. If technology is implemented and well used in a classroom, grades and learning can be improved.
Not to be rude, but a technology ban that results in increased grades demonstrates a stronger link to previous poor technology usage (or at least lax technology usage that students exploited).
Student’s don’t know how to take notes on computers/tablets/technology just because they are ‘digital natives’ (which is always already a problematic concept). Students also probably don’t know how to effectively take notes for a given subject area. High-Impact Practices demonstrate again and again that students struggle to make connections across disciplines and explicate what they’ve learned. In these studies with positive results – did the technology ban result in some attention to note-taking. The articles I read usually include students self-reporting better note taking. This indicates to me that attention was paid IN CLASS to how to take notes, or just note-taking in general. Which means the results are not 100% a direct consequence of the technology ban!
Ok, rant over on that part.
Long term implications
As the instructor of the Media Literacy Institute on Digital Citizenship this summer, I’m really interested in the long-term implications of this. What happens when students go to work and only have laptops? What happens when these individuals communicate and engage in online spaces after experiencing bans? Bans usually indicate bad, so in what ways are technology bans creating internet communication errors? I’m not saying the job of all college faculty is to train all individuals to use the internet, i’m speaking more broadly about the implications of a ‘ban’.
What does a ban mean to you? Banned books usually excited readers to read what’s on the list, to become emotional about their favorite book that happens to be on the list. They discuss them more, they fight them more. Is that the mentality that supports positive digital citizenship on the global world wide web?
I really think we need to rethink the ‘technology ban’. I’m not arguing that all faculty should include technology in their classrooms – instead spend time discussing why technology is not appropriate for note-taking in your course, how to effectively take notes for better learning and exam/essay performance, and leave it at that. Why do we ban, when we could instead empower?
This is my call to empower technology in classrooms to support learning (I’m going to add this to my syllabus).
This is my call to empower discussions about effective note-taking in your class instead of a technology ban. I’m serious – call the section “Effective Note Taking” and describe (in positive terms) why technology is less effective and explain effective notes. Then let students remix those ideas to meet their individual needs. You’re empowering learners – including learners with disabilities without requiring extra effort by any student.
This is my call to return to student-centered syllabi and pedagogy by considering learning instead of blaming and banning technology.
If we all ban together (pun intended) to positively support and engage learners, using whatever technologies (paper and pencil are technology BTW) appropriate for our classrooms, we could create syllabi and students and classrooms focused on learning!