Why I let students use laptops and phones—even during exams

Eric Mazur, father of the flipped classroom and professor at Harvard University, argues that students should be allowed to use laptops and phones in class—even during exams, reports Chris Havergal for Times Higher Education.

Mazur is no stranger to disrupting the college classroom. In the 1990s, he led the shift from the "sage on a stage" model towards student discussions, writes Havergal.

In the age of Google and Wi-Fi, the answers to most questions are just one click away, notes Havergal. Now, there's less need for students to memorize anything, says Mazur, a professor of physics at Harvard University.

As the importance of information recall diminishes, classrooms must adapt to develop the skills students actually need in the 21st century, argues Mazur.

Your new freshmen have never lived without a smartphone

Colleges need to redesign exams to test student creativity and analytical skills, not their memory, he says. Although he encourages his students to bring their laptops and phones into exams, he's re-worked his questions so that none of the answers can be found through a simple Google search, he explains.

Technology is rapidly revolutionizing the learning experience, but pedagogy has been slow to catch up, argues Mazur.

Lino Guzzella, president of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, echoes Mazur's sentiment and argues that tools like video capture and clicker feedback are already changing how students learn.

But there's still a long way to go before academia is up to speed on the latest technology, he says. To help things along, Guzzella recommends incentivizing innovation in faculty performance reviews (Havergal, Times Higher Education, 9/8).

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