Hunter: I don’t understand your complaint at all. Don’t you test your students on the material? If they can show that they’ve learned it, what does it matter whether they’re multitasking in class? If they can’t learn because they’re distracted, isn’t that their problem, not yours?
And as for “pay[ing] sustained attention to public policy debates so they can participate meaningfully in the democratic process” — are you really suggesting (in a blog post!) that people who don’t spend much time at their computers are better informed?
The fact is that once you’re used to taking notes on a laptop — which I spend a lot of my time as a journalist doing — the advantages become obvious. A computer keeps all your notes in one place, where they can be instantly searched by keyword. Notebooks fall apart. They get lost. They can’t be searched automatically.
The one big advantage that pencil-and-paper has is portability — but by the time your son goes to college, that will almost certainly be less of an issue. Some super-light hybrid large-screen smartphone-type thing (or maybe something even cooler that I can’t even imagine) will have replaced the laptop as a note-taking device. But he probably won’t be using a notebook and pencil, and you’d be doing him a tremendous disservice by demanding otherwise.