Some Universities encourage students to bring a laptop to class so they can surf the internet for educational things to enhance learning. Charity programs also support disadvantaged students to get their own laptops. But is bringing laptops to class really useful?
An associate professor of psychology at the Michigan State University conducted a study showing that using laptops in class is associated with lower exam grades. Laptops in class are a source of distraction not only for the students that bring them but also for the ones sitting nearby.
At an average one-third of the class time is spent on internet activities that are not even relevant to the class. The study concluded that the students that surfed the internet the most were more likely to score low in exams. If the internet use in class was nonacademic, it predicted lower scores irrespective of motivation, interest or intelligence of the student. Even if the browsing was academic, it does not lead to higher scores.
Distractions have always been a part of a classroom, may it be handwritten notes, doodles or even cell phones. Such distractions are noticeable, but in the case of a laptop, it is very hard to tell what students are doing on the laptop.
We can however not deny that some people may be better at multitasking than others and laptop use may not affect their grades badly. According to the research and for obvious reasons, it is not a good practice to use a laptop in class even for taking notes. Researchers have found that taking notes on a laptop is not as useful as writing them by hand. Writing notes by hand forces a student to think deeply about it hence strengthening the learning.
Laptops are obviously a need for students for learning, making assignments, particularly for students with computer science majors for programming. Despite this, taking them to class is just not a useful practice.