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To the Editor. I read the article “Why We Banned Use of Laptops and ‘Scribe Notes’ in Our Classroom,”1 and related many of the experiences shared by the author. As a faculty member (also teaching pharmacy law and ethics), it is very discouraging and frustrating to notice students surfing the Internet and/or sending e-mails during class. I especially liked one of the author's course goals that stated, in part, that the course was to “give the student experience in listening to professional communication and discerning points of relevance and importance.”1 However, I believe banning laptops in the classroom is not the best approach to meet these goals.
There are 3 reasons why I believe we should embrace technology (including laptops) and thus use it in our classrooms. The first reason is that this generation of learners, primarily the millennials (born from 1982 to 2002)2 have grown up with technology and use it as a primary method of learning. Furthermore, they are much more adept at multitasking than any previous generation. Second, research has shown that if technology is “promised” and subsequently not delivered, pharmacy students will be less committed to the profession and to their college or school of pharmacy.3 Finally, our classrooms should resemble practice situations as much as possible, making the adult learners believe their learning is relevant and as realistic as possible.
At the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) teacher's seminar 2 years ago, Patrick Jackson referred to the Millennial Generation as “digital natives.”4 This term refers to the fact that technology is a part of this generation's everyday life, including how they learn. Many of my students prefer typing their notes as opposed to writing them. For one thing, they are much easier to organize. I know the students can type much faster (and more legibly) than they can write. When I was in pharmacy school, I spent so much time taking notes during class that I did not have time to communicate with my instructors. Dr. Jackson also described 4 rules when teaching millennials, one of which he called the “computer rule.”4 By this, he meant that we, as educators, should allow the students to help teach us, giving them greater ownership in their education. This places greater value on the students' experiences with technology, experiences that can be shared to enhance the learning environment. As an instructor, if I can create activities/opportunities for learning that include the use of laptops, students will be more likely to engage in the class. Though there is no guarantee this will solve the issue of students checking Facebook during class, it is a method by which to embrace the use of technology.
A psychological contract is the “perception by an individual that his or her organization has failed to fulfill promised obligations.”5 In a recent study, second-year pharmacy students who perceived that their college or school of pharmacy failed to fulfill perceived promises regarding physical facilities (a component of the psychological contract) were less likely to be committed to the profession and to their college of pharmacy.3 In essence, if a student is “promised” by the college of pharmacy that technology (eg, physical facilities) is state-of-the art and that the technology will be utilized in the curriculum, failure to do so will result in the student perceiving a violation of his/her psychological contract. This may have long-term ramifications, such as decreased involvement in the profession and disgruntled alumni.
In pharmacy practice, technology is used everyday. The same should be true in classroom settings and our students should be surrounded with technology as they prepare for their future roles as pharmacists. As great as the technology is, it cannot replace personal interaction with patients. While I agree with the author that we should provide “undivided attention”1 to patients, this is accomplished everyday in pharmacies across the country, the majority of which possess the very technology the author advocates banning. A recent article in the Journal summarizes my perspective better than I could have ever written. The authors state, “We should embrace technology and allow its use to the fullest and logical extent to enhance education, research, and service missions – while educating students to what is appropriate use and to think and read critically and ethically about new challenges that will be associated with advancing technologies such as cloud computing, mobile computing, and open content.”6