The Case for Banning Laptops in the Classroom

Maybe the students in this photo are diligently peer-reviewing each other’s work. I know full well students are not always attentive during my classes, but a study that explores whether laptops help students perform better on pop quizzes makes the interesting assumption that we measure learning by comparing scores on pop quizzes. (Or that students actually take notes, which is another issue altogether.)

I teach very few courses where I expect students to memorize and spit back a lot of facts. Even my “News Writing” students get to look things up in their their AP Style Handbook when they write (just like the pros do).

Having said that, I frequently give in-class writing prompts that require students to apply some new concept to the assigned readings; if they have not done the readings, then they will not be ready to do the in-class writing. I don’t always grade that in-class writing, but it usually has something to do with prepping students for the longer papers, so that students who regularly put in this effort in-class will make steady progress towards their term papers.

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 8.03.58 AMRecent Princeton University and University of California studies took this into account while investigating the differences between note-taking on a laptop and note-taking by hand. While more words were recorded, with more precision, by laptop typists, more ended up being less: regardless of whether a quiz on the material immediately followed the lecture or took place after a week, the pen-and-paper students performed better. The act of typing effectively turns the note-taker into a transcription zombie, while the imperfect recordings of the pencil-pusher reflect and excite a process of integration, creating more textured and effective modes of recall. —The New Yorker.

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