I’ve been around long enough to understand why some students choose to take notes on a laptop (because it’s the only mechanism they’ve known) or, how recording lectures on a cellphone might help them remember what was said during a discussion; but, in my future classes I will not allow laptops nor cellphones to be present unless it is part of a syllabus activity. There are a few reasons for this. First, what I teach (regardless of the discipline area) must be communicated in a manner that is easily formatted for cognitive recollection. Second, items that are not discussed in seminar will not be tested on mid-terms or final exams. Third, class participation will be crucial for expanding discussion topics and creating new streams of colloquy. Exceptions for this as mentioned are for syllabus activities which I could imagine would be three or four times a semester.
In the article linked above by NPR it discussed that 1/3 of a psychology course spent time surfing for non related classroom material. My guess would be that this is a much higher percentage. I don’t doubt many areas of education might require the use of a computer on a daily basis but in my discipline it isn’t necessary so it would be considered a distraction. If I can’t teach it which results in the student not remembering the material, then I’ve failed. If I’ve taught it and the student can’t remember the material, then they’ve failed. The middle ground here is understanding that there are multiple ways of teaching and learning. As a professor I must be engaged daily with my students to understand where each one is on the learning path. It is my responsibility to do so.