Thursday, August 4, 2016

NO Computers in Class?

“Should computers be barred from the classroom?”
            That question triggered a spirited discussion the other day at a faculty meeting at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Prompted by a Wall Street Journal story headlined “I’m Banning Laptops from My Classroom,” professorial opinion ranged from “computers MUST be in the classroom” to, well, me.
            Since I started teaching several years ago at Bloomberg, ranked the #1 public health school in America, I have flatly prohibited any 21st Century technology in my class.  No laptops, no smart phones, and no iPads or assorted “tablets.”
            Although I spell this out in my syllabus, few students bother reading a syllabus, and so there is usually shock and awe at my first class of the semester.   I have to dole out paper and pens because many students no longer carry such ancient writing implements.
            Interestingly, several of my students were in the faculty meeting and they spoke out in favor of computers…in some classes.   Nobody was nervy enough to suggest computers should find their way into my marketing class.
            Why do I ban these devices that have essentially become one with our bodies?  Here’s what the author of the Wall Street Journal piece, Rutgers law professor Stuart Green, said he experienced when he walked to the back of his classroom while a guest lecturer taught his class:
            “What a revelation to see what the students are up to. While virtually all of them have open laptops and most are taking notes, many seem more intent on emailing and texting, posting on social media, reading news sites, shopping online, or looking at YouTube videos. I recently saw one student systematically checking out law-firm websites for summer-associate salaries. Another spent an entire class streaming an NHL hockey game.
            “If this is what the students are doing while I’m sitting behind them, observing the class, I can only imagine what they’re doing when I’m up front, lecturing.”
            What do you think?  Computers in the classroom -- or not?

To be continued…the impact of technology on our energy.

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