On campus, students can be seen using their cell phones, laptops, iPads and other modern devices not only to Snapchat and text friends, but also for academic purposes. Assignments, syllabi, PDFs and even entire textbooks can be reached at our fingertips anywhere at any time of the day — as long as USC’s WiFi is not crashing.
But walking into classrooms and lecture halls the first week of school, some professors asked students to close their laptops and put their cellular devices away. Due to research studies and/or personal beliefs, a handful of professors on campus have decided to ban laptop and handheld technology usage during class time, fearing such use may be distracting and hinder students’ learning abilities. Though it may be unfair to ban devices that certain students have become reliant on and have found to be their most successful tools in learning, the University should consider reducing the presence of laptops in classrooms to ensure higher success rates of students who are in fact paying a very high price tag for their education.
Professors often admit to fearing losing students’ focus during class time when they are faced with only screens instead of eyes during lecture.
“I know that I have a hard time staying on task when the option to check out at any momentary lull is available; I assumed that this must be true for my students, as well,” Dartmouth professor Dan Rockmore told The New Yorker.
When classroom learning entails laptops, it’s hard not responding to friends having crises on iMessage, reaching that next level on a game or opening the ad that says PINK is having a sale on yoga pants which you need to buy right away. None of these distractions are present when laptops are shut and technology is removed from the line of focus.
For a long time, we believed technology was the future, especially in education, but studies have shown otherwise. In 2003, a study at Cornell University showed that the half of the class which was asked to not use their laptops in class performed better on a post-class quiz than those who continued regular laptop usage throughout the class.
“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,” Rockmore said about the study.
When professors ask students to put away their laptops and other devices, they do so for the benefit of the student. Not only are laptops a major distraction to students and at times professors, they can also hinder recall practices.
Moreover, laptop notetaking can easily turn into transcription verbatim from one screen to another.
“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,” Rockmore said.
But though some college professors have increasingly discouraged the use of laptops in lecture halls, many colleges and even K-12 schools are pushing for an increased presence of technology in classrooms. Many schools now provide students with laptops or iPads for the purpose of educational learning.
Technology in the classroom is great in many aspects — it can reduce the use of textbooks and print-out worksheets and documents, which eliminates paper waste, and it is easier and more manageable than carrying around heavy, overpriced textbooks. Additionally, many assignments require internet use, and online activities can engage students with interactive math and reading questions.
But exposing kids to technology at an early age is causing health professionals to be concerned with the possible mental, physical and social health implications of technology overdose. With eyes glued to a tablet or television screen, a child is cut off from the world around them, and developmental, neurological and behavioral problems like ADHD are today speculated to be linked to technology overuse.
With professors at colleges putting the brakes on technology use in classrooms and converting back to traditional methods of notetaking, allowing technology to fill younger classrooms might not be the right move. We need to take a step back from the idea that all technology is good technology and consider the struggle a child may face if he or she becomes overly attached and reliant on a device only to have it ripped away upon entering college as a freshman.
There is no doubt that technology will continue circulating throughout the hallways of schools in the United States. Though banning technology altogether in the classroom may not be necessary, it is important that school officials encourage structured and limited use of electronics and continue traditional learning methods that have proven to be effective in learning and retaining information even in today’s college classrooms.