Technology in the Classroom

I want to briefly draw your attention to a series of related posts about technology in the classroom, beginning with Clay Shirky’s recent post explaining his decision to have students put their wired digital devices away during class. Let me say that again: Clay Shirky has decided to ban lap tops from his classroom. Clay Shirky. Shirky has long been one of the Internet’s leading advocates and cheerleaders, so this seems to be a pretty telling indication of the scope of the problem.

I particularly appreciated the way Shirky focused on what we might call the ecosystem of the classroom. The problem is not simply that connected devices distract the student who uses them and hampers their ability to learn:

“Anyone distracted in class doesn’t just lose out on the content of the discussion, they create a sense of permission that opting out is OK, and, worse, a haze of second-hand distraction for their peers. In an environment like this, students need support for the better angels of their nature (or at least the more intellectual angels), and they need defenses against the powerful short-term incentives to put off complex, frustrating tasks. That support and those defenses don’t just happen, and they are not limited to the individual’s choices. They are provided by social structure, and that structure is disproportionately provided by the professor, especially during the first weeks of class.”

I came across Shirky’s post via Nick Carr, who also considers a handful of studies that appear to support the decision to create a relatively low-tech classroom environment. I recommend you click through to read the whole thing.

If you’re thinking that this is a rather retrograde, reactionary move to make, then I’d suggest taking a quick look at Alan Jacob’s brief comments on the matter.

You might also want to ask yourself why the late Steve Jobs; Chris Anderson, the former editor at Wired and CEO of a robotics company; Evan Williams, the founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium; and a host of other tech-industry heavyweights deploy seemingly draconian rules for how their own children relate to digital devices and the Internet. Here’s Anderson: “My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and overly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules.”

Perhaps they are on to something, albeit in a “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” sort of way. Nick Bilton has the story here.


Okay, and now a quick administrative note. Rather than create a separate entry for this, I thought it best just to raise the matter at the tail end of this shorter post. Depending on how you ordinarily get to this site, you may have noticed that the feed for this blog now only gives you a snippet view and asks you to click through to read the whole.

I initially made this change for rather self-serving reasons related to the architecture of WordPress, and it was also going to be a temporary change. However, I realized that this change resolved a couple of frustrations I’d had for awhile.

The first of these centered on my mildly obsessive nature when it came to editing and revising. Invariably, regardless of what care I took before publishing, posts would get out with at least one or two typos, inelegant phrases, etc. When I catch them later, I fix them, but those who get their posts via email never got the corrections. If you have to click over to read the whole, however, you would always see the latest, cleanest version. Relatedly, I sometimes find it preferable to update a post with some related information or new links rather than create a new post (e.g.). It would be unlikely that email subscribers would ever see those updates unless they were clicking to the site for the most updated version of the post.

Consequently, I’m considering keeping the snippet feed. I do realize, though, that this might be mildly annoying, involving as it does an extra click or two. So, my question to you is this: do you care? I have a small but dedicated readership, and I’d hate to make a change that might ultimately discourage you from continuing to read. If you have any thoughts on the matter, feel free to share in the comments below or via email.

Also, I’ve been quite negligent about replying to comments of late. When I get a chance to devote some time to this blog, which is not often, I’m opting to write instead. I really appreciate the comments, though, and I’ll do my best to interact as time allows.

8 thoughts on “Technology in the Classroom

  1. Just piping in in the truncated RSS feed – I would much rather prefer that you switch back to the full feed rather than truncated. While it’s true that for this site it’s just another click or two but it still disturb my reading habits and sadly it also means that I am less likely to actually click through.

  2. Typically, if a post is of particular interest, as this one obviously was (:-p), I will click through to read it in whole. So I don’t have a problem with the snippet, overall. However, that said when you had full posts, I would either sometimes read them right then and there in my e-mail, or if it was a particularly long, thought-provoking read, I would click the link title and open it in another window separate from e-mail for consumption at a later time. This usually involved a refresh of the page when I get around to reading it later anyway, so it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference to me either way.

    I can see how it might be problematic for those in your readership that prefer to keep a minimal of tabs open on their browser at any given time, and sometimes someone might actually read during slow moments at work, or other free moments in their day while not being able to access (or having a reluctance) outside sites aside from their e-mail providers.

    So… Long story short; I don’t mind the snippet, I am familiar with it with just about any other news/editorial/blog that I am subscribed to. I am inclined to be favorable to the full story in the in-box as well for the same reasons stated above. I’m also inclined to think that less people will demand the full edition in their inbox as opposed to the snippet, given how most sites of this day operate in that regard. Your change is good with me ultimately.

  3. I find the snippet decision somewhat annoying. My usual web interface is feedly on my phone. I try to pop over to the web browser as infrequently as possible, and this forces me to do so if I want to read the post. For most blogs that do this, I’d guess I read about 50% fewer full posts than I did before they moved to snippets.

  4. I rarely read via email subscription and hate the double click that WP reader calls for with that snippet feed. But I use it anyway.

    So keep posting, as you are.But know that I might not always bother to click through if there’s nothing of interest to me in the snippet.

    I am particularly interested in this technology post though, being fascinated by the much heralded(and eagerly supported by Big Business…) changes in the classroom and being both burdened and excited by technology myself.

    The comments thing? Yep, for me, it’s either comment or post these days. Practically impossible to do both unless its a full time job.

  5. Thanks for the feedback. Basically, it seems that there are those of you who will read regardless of the shape of the feed and some who may read less if I persist with the snippet view. Given that I’ve noted that same tendency in my own reading habits and that I obviously don’t have anything to gain really from forcing readers to come to the site to read, I’ve decided to go back to the full view. I’ll simply have to manage my editorial OCD!

    Enjoy, and thanks for reading,


  6. For any parent having children and teens (teens for me) at home, our new communication tools can be a concern. Yes, we love them, we use them, but we are adults and have known another world before them. Two of my children were born with or after the explosion of the Internet quickly followed by the boom. We have established some rules at home in order to keep ‘real’ books and ‘real’ games, inside and outside, a big part of the children’s lives in my opinion. Mixed results sometimes but all together much more successful than parents who have never said no to a phone at dinner time or establish a curfew for laptops and iPods. It isn’t easy but it’s doable. A little like good food versus junk food.
    As for your decision to opt for a snippet, I do not mind. I read each of your post since I always find them (and the comments) relevant to our times and my own reflections. I totally understand that you can’t reply to every comment. Keep writing since this is for the content that readers come to your blog.

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