Are computers really the issue?

By Dan Limmer

A recent New York Times opinion piece discussed the use of laptops in the classroom, It was a popular piece and frequently shared among EMS educators. I think the premise may be correct: In a lecture setting, note-taking via computer may not facilitate learning as much as handwriting class notes.

But why are we lecturing?

Isn’t this a bit like bailing out the Titanic when you try to improve note-taking in a classroom presentation style that isn’t that effective, to begin with? I recognize that some topics seem suited to lecture. And some educators prefer lecture. But don’t make electronics the bad guy here.

If my students did their reading and note-taking before they came into class (I often give out a fill-in form that facilitates note-taking), electronics can be used for research, creating presentations and other handy functions. An example of positive cell phone use is to assign students to create videos of skills or scenarios to be shared for evaluation.

Finally, I do understand the concept of distraction in class Computer use. Even in a dynamic setting, there are probably pros and cons. My policy in a paramedic class I taught was “You’ll be getting keys to the narcs. I’m not going to watch you and monitor your phone and computer use. If I see you are not doing coursework and you bomb a quiz or exam, don’t come to me and look for extra credit because you won’t get it.” I never had a problem. Plus, if one student isn’t working or being a distraction, it is part of team leadership for students to address it themselves.

I remain a fan of students using phones, tablets, and computers as part of the learning process. I don’t think computers are the most significant problem in classrooms. Lecture is.

What do you think?