Laptops Are Great, But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting

Laptops Are Great, But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting. By Susan Dynarski.

A growing body of evidence shows that, overall, college students learn less when they use computers or tablets during lectures. They also tend to earn worse grades. The research is unequivocal: Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them. It’s not much of a leap to expect that electronics also undermine learning in high school classrooms or that they hurt productivity in meetings in all kinds of workplaces. …

The researchers hypothesized that, because students can type faster than they can write, the lecturer’s words flowed right to the students’ typing fingers without stopping in their brains for substantive processing. Students writing by hand had to process and condense the spoken material simply to enable their pens to keep up with the lecture. Indeed, the notes of the laptop users more closely resembled transcripts than lecture summaries. The handwritten versions were more succinct but included the salient issues discussed in the lecture. …

The strongest argument [for banning electronics in the classroom] is that one student’s use of a laptop harms the learning of students around them. … I do make one major exception. Students with learning disabilities may use electronics in order to participate in class. …

The best evidence available now suggests that students should avoid laptops during lectures and just pick up their pens. It’s not a leap to think that the same holds for middle and high school classrooms, as well as for workplace meetings.