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One of the 21st Century’s Greatest Creations. Should They be Allowed in the Classroom?

Image credit to Michael Salinger from Pixabay

Are laptops harmless creations that help college students succeed, or are they evil machines out to ruin grades and innocent students’ hopes and dreams? Well, maybe that's too harsh. In reality, laptops are great tools that give us all the information we could never remember. However, during lectures, they should stay tucked away in students backpacks, or better yet in their dorms. All students should have the ability to choose whether or not they want to use a laptop in class. That being said, I believe professors should strongly discourage the use of laptops in the classroom. Laptops have been proven to distract students, on top of that, they also blur the student's memory of the notes.

Some students claim that they type faster on laptops, which in turn, helps them remember in more detail what the professor said. However, in a study conducted by Pam A. Muller, a graduate of Princeton University with a Ph.D. in Psychology Muller concluded that students who type on laptops had a significantly higher word count than those who wrote with pen and paper. During the testing phase, students who used laptops were much less proficient in recalling conceptual and factual data due to the excess word count. Essentially, when students simply copy down the information on the slide or absently type whatever the professor says it won't stick in their brain. There's so much volume to remember, it ends up backfiring on students and bites them in the butt later when it comes to testing. The whole point of note taking it to shorten and synthesize the information being given.

In another study conducted by Susan M. Ravizza, a Michigan State graduate in the neuroscience program, she found that students are spending a lot of time being distracted from their laptops than they are actually learning from them. 84 Massachusetts State students were subject to an experiment during actual lectures. The objective of the study was to find out how much time students actually spent on class-related activities, and in contrast, how much time they spent on social media. Students who preferred laptops during lectures were asked to sign into a server that would track all the websites they went on and the duration they spent there. The study concluded that 37 minutes out of 100-minute classes were spent on websites that were not school related, websites intended for online shopping, chatting with friends, playing video games, and the like. On top of that, students admitted to being on their phone for an additional 27 minutes! If the students remove the distractions then there will be no temptation to use devices Inappropriately in the first place.

I'm sure you've been in a lecture before, granted it might not be the most exciting lecture in the world, and when the kid in front of you just can’t get enough Gray’s Anatomy, it can be challenging to focus on the professor. Well in a third study by Zhu Erping, who is an associate director for instructional technology and works with top Chinese Universities, discovered to no one's surprise, that laptops do indeed distract other students in the classroom. 

After hearing this, many critics will immediately turn to the “disabled student” claim, which entails the idea that disabled students, who are unable to write with pen and paper, are left behind. In an article by Katie Pryal, she discusses this issue more in depth. I do understand some people have a legitimate excuse that puts them at a disadvantage. This is why I say, professors should strongly discourage it instead of outright banning laptops because it will indeed leave a group of students behind which is unfair to them. That being said, for the majority of the student body, they should truly reconsider the use of their laptops. At the very least students should have some self-discipline about what they are using them for.

Laptops are truly amazing inventions, in no way am I trying to discredit them. I'm trying to discredit the students who use them during lectures. All jokes aside, a majority of the time, laptops in lectures are a disadvantage to students instead of an advantage. Laptops distract students from the material being given, they clutter your notes with unnecessary details, and they don’t help you synthesize information, and worst of all, they distract your classmates. Do yourself a favor and next time you go to a lecture, ditch the laptop.

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