Professor Murmann's Blog: Laptops are a big distraction in the class room

Laptops are a big distraction in the class room

I am inconsistent. I some contexts I have banned computers and more importantly smartphone use in classrooms because it became apparent that large number of students were distracted by it. It others I have allowed it because I myself like to take notes on a laptop. Here is the evidence why at least internet connections need to be turned off in classrooms.

Over time, a wealth of studies on students’ use of computers in the classroom has accumulated [...]. Among the most famous is a landmark Cornell University study from 2003 called “The Laptop and the Lecture,” wherein half of a class was allowed unfettered access to their computers during a lecture while the other half was asked to keep their laptops closed. The experiment showed that, regardless of the kind or duration of the computer use, the disconnected students performed better on a post-lecture quiz. The message of the study aligns pretty well with the evidence that multitasking degrades task performance across the board.
Pop quizzes, of course, are not the best measure of learning, which is an iterative and reflective process. Recent 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.

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