A top Australian school has banned laptops in class, warning that technology “distracts’’ from old-school quality teaching.
Swiss scientist Conrad Gessner was one of the very first to raise alarm over information overload, stating that such overabundance of data was “confusing and harmful” to the mind. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Gessner’s theory, it may be because he exclaimed this in 1565 in response to the printing press. Perhaps he was just wanting to echo Socrates’ sentiments, who, when lamenting the advent of the written word, warned how it would “"create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories."
I have the upmost respect for Dr Vallance and one cannot deny his credentials in the field of education. I preface my criticism of his initiative (if that's the right term for retracting a previous initiative) with such praise to acknowledge that Vallance's work is evident in the sustained results of Sydney Grammar.
However, for a school to address the needs of the 21st Century learner, one must surely acknowledge the tertiary world and workforce that schools are charged to prepare them for. As nice as it would be to turn the modern classroom in to an incubator of traditional pedagogy, where vigorous debate and the fountain pen reign supreme, immune from the glow of the tablet screen, I believe it would be a disservice to the student of 2016 and beyond. If students are prohibited from using laptops (beyond the lab) whilst at school, then schools are not given the opportunity to teach young people how to use their devices for learning in an effective and meaningful way. If we create a barrier between work and recreation, with technology on one side, then how will students manage technology effectively once they leave the school gates?
Should we deny students access to immersive learning opportunities such as collaborating with students from across the globe, accessing rich data and information from a wealth of resources or working out how to develop and realise ideas creatively with software?
I have focused my career on the impact technology has on adolescent learning. When I commenced this journey, I was in the camp of 'laptops are ruining our classrooms' and, through research and consultation, have continued to evolve my perspective to one that now acknowledges that technology integration is all about balance. We certainly should not assume that great technology will ever replace a great teacher. However, we should also not assume that the absence of technology makes a great student.