In his landmark 1992 book Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, Neil Postman made the case that technological innovations are sometimes driven by ideology rather than pragmatism. That is, they are introduced not because they improve a situation, but because their authors believe in them. Based on recent research in both psychology and neurology, laptop use in the classroom may be one of these technologies.
The Globe and Mail just reported on a study of Canadian university students and the effect on their grades of laptop use in the classroom. I’ll let you read the report for yourself, but at essence is one of the key features of contemporary computers (and other related digital devices): distraction.
Add to that the growing body of research affirming the supreme importance of writing by hand (both printing and cursive) to brain development in the young as well as thought processes in adults, and we have at least some reason to turn off our screens, if only for a few hours a day.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to shut off my computer and take my dogs for a long walk. And I’ll leave my MP3 player at home.