Laptops distract from classroom learning

Laptops distract from classroom learning

Danielle Zukowski

Before coming to college, I never had a laptop. I bought one my freshman year and quickly realized how essential it was. There are ways to get by without a laptop at college- a.k.a. living at the library- but there are limited computers and limited hours.

Sometimes, you’re eating Fresh breakfast and as you’re taking a bit of your white, buttered toast, you stop midair. You remember you have stats homework due in 20 minutes. This is when you whip out that portable laptop. It’s convenient. The expense is certainly worth all the hours I have used it to quickly check Blackboard, email assignments to the printer, do online quizzes, and whatever other relief of procrastination may be necessary before class. It’s a great tool for college students to keep up with the constant assignments and class updates at home especially for students that can’t as easily go to the library such as commuters, employed students and so on. However, the problem is not the use of laptops outside the classroom. What I’m looking at is the use of laptops when students are in class.

Tuesdays and Thursdays I have political science, which is my major. The dynamics of the class are a little curious because there are some poly sci majors like myself, many of whom have a genuine passion for the subject, but there are also social work majors and then there are the people who are taking the class as part of the general education requirement. Of course their interest levels will vary from person to person- just because the class is required, it doesn’t mean a student is not interested. However, it is something to be noted. Now with these dynamics in consideration, how do laptops fit in?

Only a handful of students use their laptops in my poly sci class. One was sitting in front of me, so I had a full view of her screen. It was not hard to notice the absence of Blackboard and Microsoft Word. She was checking her bank account and going through old photos. Browsing Facebook. She even was online clothes shopping and started playing solitaire. No checking of homework assignments, though.

She wasn’t taking notes. She seemed to be doing everything but. Now I don’t know where the girl fits in those three categories of people taking the class. She could be a devoted poly sci enthusiast who is just sidetracked or a gen ed dreading every single minute. I have no idea.

Many students are tempted to do this when they bring laptops to class. It’s not abnormal, but it is very distracting. Some students do use their laptops only to take notes, but is it as effective as notebooks? Many studies say it is not because our generation can type much faster than we write, so we’re not truly consuming the information. We type it then forget it.

When we use notebooks, we write slower, and therefore, we have to think about what the professor is saying, decide which parts are important, and then rephrase it in a way that will best help us understand the lecture. With laptops you could nearly write word-for-word which isn’t really helpful for learning. So even if you aren’t using your laptop to surf the web and are, in fact, trying to be productive, it seems that you are still hurting your academic experience.