Educators as Luddites?

I love the word “Luddite” but I don’t want to be one.  According to Wikipedia, it has the following origins:

“The Luddites were a social movement of British textile artisans in the nineteenth century who protested – often by destroying mechanized looms – against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt was leaving them without work and changing their way of life. It took its name from Ned Ludd.”

So…if I ask students to turn off their cell phones, laptops and iPads in class am I a Luddite?

blog28Educators and others are debating this topic on message boards and discussion forums.  Some say learners have to turn off all the outside “static” so they can focus and participate.   Others say that the burden is on the professor – if you are interesting and engaging enough students they won’t be tempted to browse, tweet and text in class.

I don’t agree entirely with either position.   Let’s face it, the Luddites destroyed looms but the Industrial Revolution rolled right along anyway.  On the other hand, I have experienced firsthand the frustration of having students texting right under my nose—it just doesn’t seem like good manners to me.

Is there a middle ground?  I’ve been trying to imagine ways I make use of connected devices in my entrepreneurship class, such as having a short breakout period where students do live market research and then return to discuss and share their findings.  But it would be a challenge trying to figure out an application for every single class period.   And not all students have connected devices,  although I imagine the time will come when students are either issued devices, as Seton Hill is doing in fall 2010 with iPads, or classrooms are equipped with easy connectivity in class.

One way or another, our way of life is going to change.  And there are too many iPads out there to destroy them all!