Published August 15, 2013
Laptops may actually hinder students ability to learn, providing a distraction and even affecting students sitting near their owners, according to a stunning new Canadian report.
With laptops and tablet computers pervading the modern classroom, the report suggests that paper and pencil might be less distracting overall.
"We really didn't think the effects would be this huge," explained McMaster University researcher Faria Sana, who co-authored the study with fellow doctoral student Tina Weston. "It can change your grade from a B+ to a B-."
For their study, published earlier this year in the journal Computers & Education, Sana and Weston gave some students laptops to take notes, and asked them to complete a few unrelated tasks in their spare time. Other students were told given No. 2 pencils and the same tasks.
The test scenario was meant to ape a real classroom, Sana told the Canadian Press Association.
"We really tried to make it pretty close to what actually happens in the lectures,” she said.
Those students who multitasked on their laptops performed significantly worse than the pencil pushers -- and surprisingly, the effect even reached to students sitting near the laptop users.
“Those who were seated around peers who were multitasking also performed much worse on the final test," Sana said.
With the pervasiveness of tech in today’s classrooms, students have known to grow distracted, surfing the Internet, playing games, or updating Facebook profiles rather than paying attention. And that’s the problem, the researchers said.
"A lot of students spend quite a big chunk of time in class doing things that are not related to the academic environment or aren't directly related to the course or the lecture," Sana said.