The issue: Three editorial board members share their viewpoints on whether or not students should have their laptops in class.
In a scene from National Lampoon's Animal House, Professor Jennings tries to take undergraduates through the intricacies of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Multiple student distractions are displayed. Jennings, dismayed, pleads “I’m not joking! This is my job!”
Yet the student distractions are those of 1962. Grip exercisers and doodling on notepaper are the co-culprits here. The bottom line is that just as the sun rises in the east, students will occasionally be, even in the best teaching circumstances, bored and distracted.
I say co-culprits because technology is a still-debated sharing of agency between human and artifact. I could blame distraction today on laptops and smartphones. Assuming they are the culprits, I could try to ban them from my class. But just as I do not go to the Outer Banks to try and fight the incoming tide with a bucket, I have no interest in fighting our relatively new dominant technologies with my official power to run a class however, within reason, I want.
Socrates aired a famous beef with technology, only this technology was writing. He believed that the exteriorization of memory and thinking to the page would destroy the oral culture that had made Greece a pinnacle of civilization before he quaffed his rather stiff last drink. Yet civilization went on in the fits and starts of progress that it normally entails.