Friday, August 07, 2015

Laptops and Texting Banned in My Classes

This fall I'm teaching three classes in MCCC's Philosophy department: 2 sections of Intro to Logic, and Philosophy of Religion. On my syllabus I put a skull and crossbones, with the words: No texting or laptops allowed in this class!

I am Braveheart, standing against the god of media. Many students do not know what to do if they cannot text while in class. This feels like a violation of their human rights. My response is: no one can learn philosophy as one of a multitude of ongoing tasks. In fact, no one can learn anything, to a deep degree, by multitasking. No one can multitask Alvin Plantinga's modal version of the Ontological Argument for God's existence. (Note: the above video states that this argument proves that God exists. Plantinga's claim is more modest. The argument shows the reasonability of God's existence (= "warranted belief in God")).

Nicholas Carr writes:

"A pair of Cornell researchers divided a class if students into two groups. One group was allowed to surf the Web while listening to a lecture. A log of their activity showed that they looked at sites related to the lecture's content but also visited unrelated sites, checked their e-mail, went shopping, watched videos, and did all the other things that people do online. The second group heard the identical lecture but had to keep their laptops shut. Immediately afterward, both groups took a test measuring how well they could recall the information from the lecture. The surfers, the researchers report, "performed significantly poorer on immediate measures of memory for the to-be-learned content." It didn't matter, moreover, whether they surfed information related to the lecture or completely unrelated content - they all performed poorly. When the researchers repeated the experiment with another class, the results were the same." (Carr, The Shallows, Kindle, 2,236-43)