You probably suspect that laptops distract students in class.
But some students—or instructors—may counter that academic uses like notetaking, web-based assignments, or course-related internet browsing outweigh the harm.
Turns out this might be a myth. According to a study recently published in SAGE Journals, laptops in the classroom have zero beneficial effects. One of the study's authors, Susan Ravizza, wrote about their research in The Conversation.
The research team used a proxy server to track the internet use of 84 students who regularly logged onto the internet during class. The authors tracked internet use for each student, then compared it with their final exam grades.
On average, researchers found that the students spent over a third of class time browsing the internet for nonacademic reasons.
Predictably, the students who used the internet most ended up scoring the lowest on their final exams.
Of course, the authors note that a variety of factors influence grades—ACT scores, interest in the class, and motivation can all contribute. The authors estimate that in-class internet browsing accounted for roughly 5% of students' exam performance.
Researchers also took into account the academic-related internet browsing that many teachers see as a benefit of laptop use. But researchers found that even when students use their laptops to gather information related to the course material, their final exam grades did not improve.
Ravizza writes in The Conversation that their findings were supported by another study from the Association for Psychological Science (APS).
The APS study found that students who take notes on their computers learn less than students who take notes by hand, since typing notes on a laptop makes it easy for student to copy content verbatim rather than think about the content and paraphrase it when writing by hand (Ravizza, The Conversation, 1/24).
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