Blog Post

Laptops Must Find Their Place In The Classroom Before They Can Be Allowed In

 Laptops Must Find Their Place In The Classroom Before They Can Be Allowed In


Chris Fasce


Laptops Must Find Their Place In The Classroom Before They Can Be Allowed In


The emergence of laptops in the classroom has become a hot debate in what the best policy is to handle this issue. The amount of distractions caused by laptops is substantially more than that of students who use pen and paper. The colorful screens and possibilities of escaping from the class material make it tempting for students to give in. Students aren’t able to grasp the material as well as they should be able to, always having to reference back to their computer for answers. On the contrary, some uses of laptops in the classroom have proven to help students have access to more material. While there are many problems with laptops in the classroom, there are still many ways to use them effectively. In this blog, I will show why moderate use which is” the average in amount, intensity, quality, or degree.” is the best laptop policy for classrooms. This will ensure the best possible learning outcomes for students.

    The main reason why laptop use should be minimized in the classroom is that the temptations students feel during class to get off topic. Studies were done at Princeton University and the University of California, where groups of randomly selected students only had access to either laptops or pen/paper and the pen/paper students had more success in understanding the material. The students with the laptops struggled to fully retain the material as well as the other students in the study. (Shannon Doyne) Although these results were done at such a prestigious school like Princeton, which was “ranked ninth in the world by academics and 33rd by employers” according to QS World University Rankings® 20. (Laura Tucker) This doesn't mean that laptops don't have a potential benefit to students, as this is such a small sample size and doesn't show the effects on other schools such as community colleges or other specific subject schools like big business or fashion schools. At the United States Military Academy, a team of professors studied laptop use and the course was taught in small sections, “which the researchers randomly assigned to one of three conditions: electronics allowed, electronics banned and tablets allowed but only if laid flat on desks, where professors could monitor their use. By the end of the semester, students in the classrooms with laptops or tablets had performed substantially worse than those in the sections where electronics were banned.”(Susan Dynarski) Three different groups were used to test out the students with access to electronics in class. As a result, the students with unlimited laptop use did substantially worse than the students with no access or limited access to technology while being monitored by the teacher. If students feel like they have no repercussions for using their laptops in class, they are more likely to use them. The students that were monitored had less of a drop in their grades since they felt they would be judged or talked to by the instructor so they were less likely to use it.

Another problem with allowing laptops in the classroom is the effect they have on the other students around the classroom. One strong piece of evidence that supports this claim is from a study of lab experiments at York University and McMaster University in Canada. The study tested the effect of laptops on students who weren’t using them. This study states “Some students were told to perform small tasks on their laptops unrelated to the lecture, like looking up movie times. As expected, these students retained less of the lecture material. But what is really interesting is that the learning of students seated near the laptop users was also negatively affected.” (Susan Dynarski) This example also supports my argument that laptops should be kept outside of the classroom not only due to the underperformance of the students using them but also the loss of focus its causing to students around them resulting in less of the material being understood by the students. By allowing laptops to run rampant in the classroom or lecture hall, distractions would be everywhere and even students who have the self-discipline to listen to the lecture would face problems.

One of the biggest issues with firmly banning laptops is what problems arise concerning disabled students in those classes. Some students need to have a laptop to take notes and by banning them you limit their ability to learn. One of the two problems created by banning laptops is an unnecessary burden you put on students to seek accommodations from the professor. Students that should receive this accommodation should not have to fight for this right, considering they dread talking about this issue, to begin with. (Katie Pryal/Jordynn Jack) Another issue that forms for disabled students is that in laptop banned classes they will be forced to reveal themselves to their classmates as “disabled” since they will be the only ones to have permission. Which is something they shouldn't have to deal with in order to learn effectively in class.

    The stance on allowing free use of laptops in class and firmly banning them are both too extreme and hurting the education of students. Both situations result in problems whether its lowered academic scores or limitation of creativity and disabled students are forced to identify themselves in class. The Harvard Crimson also agrees on incorporating moderate use in the classroom, and gives examples as to how to implement it. The Harvard Crimson state “We encourage moderate policies such as designated electronics areas in the back of lecture halls where students will not distract their peers.”(The Crimson Editorial Board) Other moderate policies that would be beneficial include the electronics having to be faced down on the desks so the teacher can monitor, certain websites be available to access while on the school network. This is something my K-12 school district did which kept many students on topic because we were unable to access any games or non educating websites.  
    Although laptops are becoming the norm, they still need to be used moderately to have the best impact in the classroom. The best solution for this problem is not all the way on one side or the other, it's more of a happy medium that will resolve the issue and make both the students and professors happy. At the end of the day, it's more important what’s in your head not on the computer.

Photo Credits-

Matt Skogen



No comments