Teachers: What Will You Do?

Alva Noë:

Asking students to leave their devices at the door this is something I don’t feel that I have a right to do. Even when I think, even when I know, that it would be a good thing.

Now it would be different if my job as an instructor were like that of an engineer whose task is to optimize a production process. But students are not products. They are not plants in a nursery.

They are free agents, collaborators — this is how I view them, anyway — and it isn’t possible to legislate the best way to deal with the lures, the temptations, the habit-forming power of these personal technologies. Each of us needs to do this, for ourselves.

I can’t bring myself to try to ban these new technologies in the classroom because to do so, it seems to me, would be to infringe on the personal liberty of my students.

So what are we to do?

Going forward, I will try to impress on my students that, quite above and beyond the cognitive costs, that is, the decrement in learning, there are social costs. It is rude, basically, to sit there and ignore what is going on around you. It is selfish to disrupt the joint work of the group.

Beyond that, our task, as teachers, must be to engage and capture the attention of these citizens as they are. The new technologies are part of what makes the new person.

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