Editor's Note (The View From Here)

Finding a Balance

This month’s cover story, which begins on page 18, profiles innovative learning spaces on campuses across the country, from Oregon to Connecticut. These high-tech—some might even say futuristic—facilities provide students with cutting-edge tools to augment their academic experience. One of the schools included in the article, Winona State University in Minnesota, is even a “laptop campus”—each student attending the university is provided with a laptop computer. Winona State isn’t the only one. A number of colleges and universities routinely provide their students with a mobile device of some sort, from phablets and tablets to notebooks or laptops.

I am reflecting on this because oddly enough this topic came up—students being provided with digital tools by their school or college—in a conversation about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. An acquaintance declared that “back in my day” students got along just fine without laptops, cell phones, tablets, or other devices in the classroom, and schools should “stop wasting money” handing them out and instead spend that money on better security and protecting students. I pointed out that today’s students are digital natives; they grew up using technology. Digital tools—desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, video screens—comprise an integral part of how they expect to receive information. “But they don’t need them,” she argued. “They can learn from books and teachers, like we did. They need to be safe.”

I can’t argue with the stance that all students need to be safe. I know from working with the experts—as well as colleges and universities—who provide insight, columns, and articles for this magazine that safety and security are their daily concerns; ones they take very seriously. Every day. They are relentlessly developing facilities, products, training, tools, methodologies, and yes, technologies that will improve campus safety and security for everyone. We cannot stop improving our approaches to campus safety and security.

We also cannot set aside providing up-to-date, relevant environments and tools for teaching and learning in order to do so. It’s not an either/or. It’s a balance. These objectives must exist in tandem so that we can offer the best education to students in the safest possible facilities in order to prepare them for life and work in our increasingly digital world.

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of College Planning & Management.

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