The current rage these days is to bash tech use in education, as exampled in this article found at The Chronicle of Education. This article (and similar ones that have been surfacing over the last 2+ years) are biased, anti tech in education. While reading these, I again come back to this simple thought: it isn’t pen and paper is so much better than digital, it’s students are asked to apply digital tech to antiquated methods because it is safe.
But even if we want to really chase the white rabbit, this premise of this article can be debunked because of its limited scope and failed attempt to use proper digital resources. This article claims long handwriting is better than digital note taking. In making this claim, the subject makes an egregious error and blanket assumption: long handwriting cannot be done with digital technology. Really? It’s funny because I did that exact thing during several meetings last week. There were no distractions from multi tasking (there is nothing wrong with multi tasking and I believe teachers should shoulder the burden of instructing students healthy ways to channel multi tasking…it can be greatly beneficial), just my device I was fluidly handwriting on complete with other tools a frigin piece of paper and a pen don’t have. What tools? How about audio recording, easily move written text by a selection box, multiple writing tools at my disposal (multiple colors and opacity), quickly embedding a video or photo, annotating over photos/inserting captions on photos/videos, adding graphs efficiently, etc?
All this to make a simple point. It isn’t that digital tech is not as beneficial as pen/paper, in fact it is more beneficial. The problem is with control. Pen and paper are easier to control what the student is doing. They can’t check their email on their paper. They can’t pull up a video with a swipe of their pen across said paper. For the teacher, it is safe.
But wouldn’t it be great if we as teachers recognized the full potential of being able to check email while writing or pulling up a video while note taking? Or better yet, look at alternatives for note taking that would be of benefit to the individual student? And I include all levels of teachers. It would be great if professors or instructors at the university level would stop it with the digital ban. Are there students that won’t use digital tech properly? Yes. This would be the equivalent of making a paper airplane out of paper that should have been used for note taking. However, those students who have learned the benefit digital tech has provided them will be the ones on top in the end. We as teachers need to be more open to the change.
I would love to take the same students from this article and apply new methods with them. Proper use of technology will trump analog.
STOP FIGHTING DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY AND LET IT WORK FOR YOU!
James McCrary is a director of technology & consultant based in Baton Rouge.