Old Story: Banning Laptops, Better Grades

Michael Bugeja, author of Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine, could have predicted what Inside Higher Ed disclosed today about an economics professor at Ohio State University.

In 2005, Bugeja published an article in Inside Higher Ed, titled The Medium is the Moral,” concerning Duke University’s abandoned “iPod First Year Experience.”

On May 11, 2018, Inside Higher Ed posted an article titled, “Professor Bans Laptops, Sees Better Grades,”  reporting that this fall all OSU first-year students “will be handed an iPad Pro as part of an institutionwide initiative to incorporate Apple technology into students’ learning experience.”

That device won’t be welcomed in Trevon Logan’s economics classes as he reportedly banned all electronics from his courses with students getting better grades and with little pushback regarding the no-digital policy.

That happened as well at Duke years ago when its student newspaper, The Chronicle, reported, “The much-hyped iPod program — for which the University spent $500,000 on iPods for the entire freshman class — was far from the overwhelming academic success the university hoped for, and the experiment should not continue next year.”

OSU’s iPad Pro will be used the same way that Duke’s iPod gadgets were used: for entertainment, distraction and hence, lower grades.

The latest edition of Interpersonal Divide speaks about the consumerism of mega corporations like Apple and their corporate contracts with universities. The goal is not learning, but marketing, with Apple’s continual stream of notifications that disrupt the classroom and hence, tend to result in lower grades.

Bugeja wrote about that, too, in a 2007 article titled “Distractions in the Wireless Classroom.” Here’s an  exerpt of the same digital result, this time at the University of Missouri:

    “Cynthia M. Frisby, associate professor of strategic communication at the University of Missouri, has noticed students on MySpace and eBay during her lectures. She has also noticed more failing grades.  … Now she bans laptops in her large lecture courses and has a clause in her syllabus about the inappropriate use of technology. The result? “Huge increases in attention and better performance on exams,” she says. “Students have even mentioned that they feel like they are doing better without the laptop.”

The new edition of Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine not only discusses the tsunami of distracting notifications via Apple products, exacerbated by social media, but also touts the benefits of no-digital policies as instituted by OSU professor Logan.

Instead of corporate gadget giveaways, and the gimmicky marketing that ensues because of that giveaway, instititutions like Ohio State University should require a a first-year course on media and technology literacy.

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