Recently, two political science professors at the University of Toronto, Ryan Balot and Clifford Orwin, wrote a column for the The Globe and Mail about why they are banning electronic devices from their classrooms. Their arguments claim that technology serves as a distraction, as opposed to a learning tool in the classroom, and that students learn more when they are fully present.
I have to admit, I wholeheartedly agree.
There’s no denying that I love technology. In fact, you can find me glued to my computer for a good chunk of the day. But, I also believe that there is a time and a place for everything and, in my experience, the classroom is not the place for laptops and cellphones.
For the entirety of my undergrad, I didn’t bring my computer to school and I turned off my phone during every class. These decisions allowed me to better participate in class, which contributed to my academic success.
For those who believe that computers aid in their learning, a report released last year by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development shows otherwise. The report, which surveyed 31 countries, including Canada, found that computers can actually serve as a distraction.
Another study published in Psychological Science titled, “The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking,” found that students who took handwritten notes retained more information than those who took them on their laptops.
But these studies only reinforce what is obvious. Two weeks ago, I did a presentation in class that didn’t require anyone to take notes, yet the majority of my class didn’t look up from their computer screens for the full 10 minutes. And this is not an isolated incident.
When it comes to a solution, Balot and Orwin got it right: Only students who are registered to use computers through accessibility services, or those who take notes on their behalf, should be allowed to use computers in class.
Professors need to crack down on where and when technology is used in classes. Their students would be better for it.