17 March 2009

Use your laptop, lose a letter grade

laptopsI’ve noted that I don’t allow laptops in my classes. So far, I haven’t heard any students grumbling about this.

Now, Diane Sieber at Colorado University has given students another reason to put away computers: enlightened self-interest. She found those using computers in class did 11% worse on average than those who didn’t (my emphasis). (See also here.)

Last fall, Sieber had 96 students in one of her courses and she took note of which ones were frequently using their laptops. After the first test, she alerted the 17 students who used their laptops intensely that, on average, they performed 11 percent worse than their peers who weren’t glued to computer screens. The number of students on laptops eventually dwindled to a half dozen, and the test scores of students who stopped using their computers during class shot up, according to Sieber.

“These are grown-ups,” she said. “They need to identify what keeps them from learning, and then act on it because they aren’t going to have me for the rest of their lives telling them ‘No, no, no. Focus.’”

Now, how can I get them to put away their smart phones?

External links

Profs grapple with laptop rules as campuses go wireless
Students Stop Surfing After Being Shown How In-Class Laptop Use Lowers Test Scores


Matthew Foster said...

Definitely a concern, especially when students are on facebook or chatting. However,having just finished my graduate degree and used my laptop the entire time, I realize that appropriate use of calendars, note taking software, and internet refences, can increase a student's efficiency and effectiveness multifold.

What if laptops are allowed, yet a system of accountability and increased expectations were in place for their use. Maybe something to the effect of turning in a portfolio of notes with each exam as documentation of how the laptop is being used. It could also be required of students to note only take notes during class but to turn in a collection of reflections with the exam. The reflection for each lecture could include an abstract, an analysis, how the lecture transformed or clarified previous thinking or knowledge, and additional information found on the web.

The goal is to allow digital natives to work in a way that engages and demands rigorous cognitive activity.

Even said...

I could agree with Matthew Foster more! I'm currently in grad school and I heavily rely on a system of software programs to help me keep track of everything. In fact, I often find that other students in my classes want copies of my notes when they see them (I take notes in MultiMarkdown and convert them into LaTeX docs that look great). I've even had one professor ask for a copy. Every piece of technology is equally bane and benefit. A system that encourages good use of technology is much better than ruling them out entirely.