Technology is constantly improving and is becoming a significant resource for students, yet some people in today’s generation are still skeptical about the use of laptops in the classroom. For example, the author of “Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting” and professor, Susan Dynarski states that “...I generally ban electronics, including laptops, in my classes and research seminars” (Dynarski). While there are some downsides to incorporating technology in the classroom (it can be distracting and lead to bad grades), overall the benefits outweigh those negative effects. Laptops create the opportunity for students to do research, look up definitions, conveniently read textbooks, take organized notes, and more. In this post, I will describe why professors should allow laptops and show students some ways they can use technology responsibly.
As a student who sometimes chooses to use a pencil and paper, I often catch myself falling behind in an attempt to neatly write everything words for word. For that reason, I am forced to use my laptop to go back to the class powerpoint and finish my notes. I also use the internet to look up unknown concepts or words that my professor uses. In my other classes, I only use my laptop to type notes in order to have everything in one place and be easily accessible. Personally, I find that typing notes on my laptop is enjoyable and keeps me focused, even with my attention disorder.
There are a few downsides to having laptops in the classroom, however, it should ultimately be the students' own decision. Laptops allow easy access for students to text their friends, scroll through social media, watch youtube videos, shop on Amazon, and play games rather than listening to an hour-long lecture. Therefore, professors who do not allow laptops in their classroom argue that they can be very distracting which can cause students to fall behind on notes and fail at multitasking. In “Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting”, Dynarski (who is a current professor of public policy at the University of Michigan, a Harvard and MIT graduate) states that “it might be that the most distracted students turn to their laptops whenever they are bored. In any case, a simple comparison of performance may confuse the effect of laptops with the characteristics of the students who choose to use them. Researchers call this “selection bias”’ (Dynarski). In other words, if some students are not paying attention then it is always possible that laptops can negatively affect their grades. Since students are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars on an education, they should choose to use laptops in the classroom or not.
Professors also have a responsibility in the classroom to teach the material while keeping their students’ attention. Moreover, it is the shared responsibility of students and professors to make the classroom a lively place. For example, in the article “6 Pros & Cons of Technology in the Classroom in 2018” Matthew Numer, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University, states, ‘“Our students are capable of making their own choices, and if they choose to check Snapchat instead of listening to your lecture, then that’s their loss. Besides, it’s my responsibility as an educator to ensure that my lecture is compelling. If my students aren’t paying attention, if they’re distracted, that’s on me’” (Himmelsbach). If the professor fails to keep the lesson interesting and eye-catching then students will turn to anything to be distracted; in today’s generation, it happens to be technology, such as a laptop.
Even though some may abuse the privilege of having a laptop in class, most students (including ones with disabilities) highly benefit from them. Laptop’s fast, easy access to the internet allows students to always have clear, updated information on a topic. Laptops can be used for research and to look up unknown words or concepts during class, making learning more effective. For example, a college student and author of “Should You Be Allowed To Use Your Laptop In Class?” states that “…students can look up facts while in class, and if they find something of interest, they can share what they’ve just found online with the class or the professor. They can also use the internet or online dictionaries to verify what they may not hear correctly in lectures, such as a date of a battle or the spelling of a world leader’s name. This helps both the student and their peers learn better” (Lieberman). This proves how helpful laptops can be and how it can positively affect student performance and grades for the class. Laptops and other forms of technology in the classroom give students the opportunity to further understand what is being taught. Even though multitasking can lead to students missing a few notes, laptops allow them to access the class powerpoint and textbook at convenient times and places.
Laptops also provide apps such as Pages and Microsoft Word that can be used for note-taking during class. Since those apps allow students to type faster, some argue that students do not comprehend the information being given to them. However, taking notes on a laptop is overall easier because it can easily be accessed, is neater, and more organized. Students will have no difficulties going back to edit notes in an easy to read font, rather than on the side of a paper in a small, illegible handwriting. For example, in “Should You Be Allowed To Use Your Laptop In Class?” it states that “students can usually type much faster than they can write. Not only does this allow them to take down more notes during class that they can later look over, but it also allows them to get down all of the necessary information in a legible manner. I know that personally, my handwriting isn’t very good. This often discourages me from looking back over my handwritten notes, especially because sometimes I can’t even read what I’ve written. I also don’t always have time to jot down everything important that the professor says when I am handwriting my notes, because I simply can’t write fast enough. This problem is resolved when I use my laptop in class because typing is both quicker and less sore on the hands than writing” (Lieberman). Therefore, taking notes on a laptop makes students’ lives easier and overall provides more benefits than handwriting. Since laptops have many benefits for students in the classroom, they should not be banned but rather embraced in educational settings.
In the end, it should be the student’s choice if they prefer to use a laptop during class or not. Everyone has a different style of learning and professors should not discourage the student’s way if it is by using technology. Laptops and other forms of technology can be academically beneficial and therefore, should always be an option for the students or be used in some aspect of the classroom. The negative effects of laptops are overall outweighed by its convenience and effectiveness.