I read a piece by Darren Rosenblum, a professor at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, in the New York Times entitled “Leave Your Laptops at the Door to My Classroom.”
While K-12 students are not law students I think the money quote in the article applies all the same.
Laptops at best reduce education to the clackety-clack of transcribing lectures on shiny screens and, at worst, provide students with a constant escape from whatever is hard, challenging or uncomfortable about learning. And yet, education requires constant interaction in which professor and students are fully present for an exchange.
He continues and I think the points he makes have universal application.
Students need two skills to succeed as lawyers and as professionals: listening and communicating. We must listen with care, which requires patience, focus, eye contact and managing moments of ennui productively — perhaps by double-checking one’s notes instead of a friend’s latest Instagram. Multitasking and the mediation of screens kill empathy.
Likewise, we must communicate — in writing or in speech — with clarity and precision. The student who speaks in class learns to convey his or her points effectively because everyone else is listening. Classmates will respond with their accord or dissent. Lawyers can acquire hallmark precision only through repeated exercises of concentration. It does happen on occasion that a client loses millions of dollars over a misplaced comma or period.
That new fangled piece of ed tech may not be the best thing to grasp onto.