Traditional Vs Digital

The whole issue of digital technology in the classroom boils down to one question: are traditional classrooms or digital classrooms more effective in teaching?

On the one hand traditional classrooms have less distraction for the students. Students are not allowed to use laptops or cell phones so there is little room for distraction. The class is run in a classic lecture and listen set-up so that the professor basically talks and the students are allowed to take notes only on pen/pencil and paper.

On the other hand, digital classrooms have more room for innovation and interaction. Each student can bring in their laptop and take notes on it. They can chat with other students in the same class and interact with them. So files can be sent and notes can be shared among students. Of course this also gives room for sitraction. Students have the opportunity to chat about things that are irrelevant to the class. They can talk to people who aren’t in the class at all. They can check Facebook. They can check Twitter and tweet. They can play games.

There are countless ways by which having a laptop in class can distract students. But what is more important? Focus or interaction? Direct attention to the professor or immediate access to any kind of information that might seem unclear to the student? In a digital classroom, if the professor says a word that the student does not understand they can immediately look it up. However, is that really better than asking the professor and giving all the students an opportunity to listen to the answer?


This is an example of a debate that was going on between two scholars:
David M. Marcovitz argues that yes, educational technology is shortening our attention spans, and he prefers traditional classrooms. He says:

“Even the best educational technology teaches the hidden lesson of short attention. … We are blinded by the positives as we systematically train our children for the quick reward and the quick transition to the next event”

(Marcovitz, 2008, p.9)

John David Son takes a different approach. He argues that the benefits of digital technology in the classroom exceed its drawbacks. He says:

“I have walked into classrooms where students were using technology to share, create, and explore. Those students were excited and engaged in the content being presented to them. A few didn't even realize they were learning”

(Marcovitz, 2008, p.9)

The questions around the issue are limitless…and the debate will probably go on for a while…


1. Marcovitz, David. "Is Educational Technology Shortening Student Attention Spans?" Learning & Leading with Technology 36.1 (2008): 8. Print