As a teacher, researcher and marketing professional I have been watching the coverage of Silicon Valley meetings going 'topless' with great interest. No laptops, cellphones or email/internet hand held devices allowed in company meetings and in classrooms is a growing trend. Here is the link to an ABC News story on Ditching the Devices. (Warning - ABC forces you to watch a brief pre-roll ad before the story).
In my post on Multitasking Addiction A Turnoff I explain how cognitive research supports that the devices are a distraction and multitasking is a myth. Dan Saffer at Adaptive Path coined the topless term (as in laptopless) and even posted the Rules for "Topless Meetings." I can tell you from first hand experience that enforcing topless meetings and classrooms can be a challenging task.
It is very telling that the Social Media and Marketing experts who rely on this technology are recognizing that these devices can also be a distraction. At the same time that corporate America is going topless there is also a competing trend in the classroom that technology is the answer to learning. You can also see the challenges and opportunities in the classroom in the video below, "A Vision of Students Today" and then compare and contrast this with the trend in "Topless Meetings."
I have "Topless Classes" but I also try to address the multitasking addiction and create an interactive learning environment by using eInstruction Interactive Wirless Remote Clickers. The clickers allow students to interact and respond to the PowerPoint slide presentations. No cellphones or laptops are allowed because I find that most students who bring these devices are not working on class stuff. They are too tempted to feed the multitasking addiction and give only partial attention to the discussion at hand. An article in Wired titled Classroom clickers make the grade explains why these devices can help to stimulate discussion, participation and learning.
To encourage learning and engagement I also try to use a lot of interactive technology including Audio / Video Podcast downloads of the PowerPoint slides, Internet Activities and online Toolkit Exercises, Digitally Submitted Assignments, Electronic Feedback of all assignments within a few days of submission, and online quizzes and exams.
New technologies can be used to create collaboration and engagement and increase learning opportunities. However, if technology is used without structure, discipline and monitoring the multitasking addiction will continue to creep into the classroom and in meetings. The multitasking addiction will continue to distract us from human interaction and focusing on the task at hand until we learn how to turnoff at the appropriate times.
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