19 February 2008

Ban tech, or, Why I am such a hypocrite

laptopsI am a geek, and I enjoy technology. I use technology a lot in my classes.

So why have I started asking students to put away their laptops in my classes this semester?

First, to remove temptation. Now that I finally have my Pocket PC working somewhat well, I've learned about the lure that such connectivity has. I was in meeting myself with my Pocket PC, and found myself realizing, "Wait. Why am I messing with this instead of listening to the speaker?" Our classrooms all have wireless internet connections. When a lecture drags a bit for a moment or two, the temptation to zip over to check email, update Facebook, look at YouTube is strong. I say this not as criticism, but as someone who hears the siren call myself. I want students to think when they're in my class, and I think having a laptop with a live internet connection detracts from focusing on the task at hand.

Second, I want to see faces. This is something I doubt students would think of, because they generally don't physically see the classroom from an instructor's perspective. I don't mean that psychologically, I mean they literally don't stand and see the room from the front. There is something very psychologically powerful about looking around a room, and seeing people looking back. When there's a laptop, people tend to be looking at the screen. And in a room with a bit of a slant, you can barely see the faces at all, and it becomes like lecturing to a series of bricks.

So no laptops in my classes. For now.

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