Friday, August 25, 2017

Laptops and Texting Banned In My Classes

This fall I'm teaching one class in MCCC's Philosophy department: Philosophy of Religion. (I'm done teaching Logic after doing it for eighteen years.)

On my syllabus I put a skull and crossbones, with the words: No texting or laptops allowed in this class!

I am Bilbo Baggins, standing against the social media orcs. 

Most students do not know what to do if they cannot text while in class. This feels like a violation of their human rights. It's like I am cutting off body parts.

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. Multitasking is the enemy of all learning and all relationship.

Obsessive multitaskers are shallow people, hollow people. (See T.S. Eliot, "The Hollow Men.") Addicted to neural linking, they cannot go to the depths learning requires. (Call this omnimultitasking which, like the zika virus, produces tiny-headed offspring.) For example, no one can multitask Alvin Plantinga's modal version of the Ontological Argument for God's existence.

Nicholas Carr supports me here, nicely. He 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, whetrher they surfed information related to the lecture or completely unrelated content - they all performed poorly. When the reseachers repeated the experiment with another class, the results were the same." (Carr, The Shallows, Kindle, 2,236-43)

Blessed are the mono-taskers, for they shall see God. And, perhaps, learn some philosophy on the side.