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Does Laptop Use Boost or Diminish Classroom Learning?

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In today’s tech world, many students come equipped with laptops for “taking notes.” Actually, as I noted in an earlier blog post, Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer have found that when it comes to remembering and applying concepts, “the pen is mightier than the keyboard.” With laptops, it is easy to take verbatim notes. When writing longhand, students more actively process the material, summarize it in their own words, and learn it more deeply.

254346_Laptops in class.jpgFatCamera/Getty Images

 And as students sitting near the back of the classroom can vouch, their peers often aren’t taking notes. They’re checking Facebook, playing games, messaging, online shopping, and information searching (stimulated by the class, we can hope). So, does this multitasking during class time exact a cost?   

 

When surveyed, students “report little or no effect of their portable device use on learning class material,” report Susan Ravizza, Mitchell Uitvlugt, and Kimberly Fenn from prior studies.

 

Really? To assess that presumption, Ravizza et al. secured the permission of 84 Michigan State introductory psychology students to have their class-time Internet use monitored. (The students afterward reported that their use was unaffected by the confidential monitoring.)

 

The results: During the 110 minute class, the average student did nonclass-related Internet browsing for 37 minutes. And the more the Internet use, the lower the final exam score—even after controlling for students’ intelligence (ACT score), motivation, and course interest.

 

The bottom line: “These findings raise questions” about encouraging students to bring laptops to class when not essential to class activities.

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About the Author
David Myers has spent his entire teaching career at Hope College, Michigan, where he has been voted “outstanding professor” and has been selected by students to deliver the commencement address. His award-winning research and writings have appeared in over three dozen scientific periodicals and numerous publications for the general public. He also has authored five general audience books, including The Pursuit of Happiness and Intuition: Its Powers and Perils. David Myers has chaired his city's Human Relations Commission, helped found a thriving assistance center for families in poverty, and spoken to hundreds of college and community groups. Drawing on his experience, he also has written articles and a book (A Quiet World) about hearing loss, and he is advocating a transformation in American assistive listening technology (see www.hearingloop.org).