As U-M instructors put the finishing touches on their fall syllabi, many are pondering technology policies for their courses. Instructors across all disciplines at Michigan have developed creative ways to utilize technologies to facilitate student learning. As many U-M faculty examples demonstrate, laptops and mobile electronic devices can be leveraged in the classroom to enhance student interaction, collaboration, content knowledge, and practice with key skills.
Yet many teachers find the presence of such devices a hindrance to student learning in their classes and seek ways to limit their classroom use. Recent writings about this concern have cited the distraction of the student user, the distraction of their fellow students (with one faculty commentator comparing classroom laptop use to second-hand smoke), or the sometimes-alarming uses of social media among groups of students during class. Many faculty are also persuaded to limit laptops in the classroom by research on the benefits of notetaking by hand for those students who are able. Considering these concerns alongside the development of ever-better instructional technologies, what's the best technology policy to adopt?
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, and the choices you make will depend on any number of factors including your discipline, class size, pedagogical strategies, and learning goals for students. Any instructor effectively has three choices, considerations about each of which we outline below: