Over the years, I’ve noticed that when I do have a specific reason to ask everyone to set aside their devices “lids down,” in the parlance of my department, it’s as if someone has let fresh air into the room. The conversation brightens, and more recently, there is a sense of relief from many of the students. Multi-tasking is cognitively exhausting — when we do it by choice, being asked to stop can come as a welcome change.
So this year, I moved from recommending setting aside laptops and phones to requiring it, adding this to the class rules: “Stay focused. No devices in class, unless the assignment requires it.” Here’s why I finally switched from “allowed unless by request” to “banned unless required.”
I made the same decisions years ago. I agree with Clay’s views about multi-tasking, and would add to that list: 1) digital literacy, and 2) maturity. Too many students simply do not know how to shut off and focus. Additionally, a portion of those who do not know how to power off are simply not mature enough to independently make the right decision. So, I banned all laptops and devices unless I requested the students to power on.