Friday, June 16, 2017

Use of Laptops and Harm to Academic Performance #Science

That laptops are not so good for classroom performance is probably something you know intuitively and this is not in the context of younger users but rather those at the university level.  (The World University Rankings:  Using laptops in class harms academic performance, study warns)

The punchline comes right at the top.

The paper, based on an analysis of the grades of about 5,600 students at a private US liberal arts college, found that using a laptop appeared to harm the grades of male and low-performing students most significantly


The sample size is not huge but it's still large enough to warrant some respect so we're interested.

The two US academics who conducted the research found that students who used laptops, typically in “laptop required” or “laptop optional” classes, scored between 0.27 and 0.38 grade points lower on a four-point grade point average scale than those who took notes using pen and paper.


There's the more detailed punchline but they don't have a good explanation for why.

While the authors were unable to definitively say why laptop use caused a “significant negative effect in grades”, the authors believe that classroom “cyber-slacking” plays a major role in lower achievement, with wi-fi-enabled computers providing numerous distractions for students.

“Students believe that laptops will improve their productivity but the opposite occurs,” Richard Patterson told Times Higher Education. He explained that this was “either due to the superiority of pen and paper, the unforeseen influence of distractions, or some other unseen factor”.


Ed:  of course the Rockhouse will tell us why?


Stand back for the plainest of English since the easiest explanation is typing is fuckin' horrible and using the cursor is even fuckin' worse.

In taking written notes, there's no jacking around with a cursor to correct errors in that irritating, nitpicky way of computers; we scratch out the offending bit with a stroke and continue with zero loss.  I wasn't at uni to learn how to be a typist; I already knew how to do that from high school.  I'm actually an extremely fast typist but that still didn't make alternatives to writing any more attractive.

My university days were in the early 70s when I observed the best notes were in block letters since that gave high legibility after the fact plus a possible increased clarity due to filtering of anything potentially flowery or just a decoration, etc.  Using that technique, review for tests was greatly facilitated and they were no problem.  For an essay test, I was going to own it and I do attribute that to the style of note taking.

Later there was ample opportunity to use a laptop in corporate meetings and I tried it both ways but I never found the laptop an adequate substitute.  I found that to be true with most others in the business as well and these were high-end mainframe professionals.  If any of them wanted some hardware, they could get it but most of them didn't want it for that purpose.  They wanted the Big Iron on the other side of the wall and they were happy to offer human sacrifices to that monster ... or many monsters if a sysplex warms your cockles.

When the good Professor said he's not going to permit laptops in his classes unless someone demonstrates an individual need, the Rockhouse regards this as a positive move for the betterment of effective education, etc, etc.


Kannafoot said...

I suspect their are multiple factors:
1. Distraction. If the classroom has WiFi, you can bet they're on some form of social media while allegedly taking notes.
2. The act of typing is a different motor skill as well as a different cognitive skill from writing.
3. The old "hear it, say it, read it, write it" concept for learning something is based on the way the brain stores activities from each of those sensory skills. Typing diverts attention away from both the "hear it" and "write it" portions of that learning process. I suspect the memory of the item being learned is not as heavily reinforced in the brain as it would be if it were written.

Peas InOurThyme said...

Agreed all the way down the line and the good prof was particularly emphatic about distraction.

Students at one time were frequently seen to be recording lectures but I wondered how many actually played them back again. I never found a good substitute for a yellow notepad and my trusty Parker pen. It didn't have to be expensive but it did have to be Parker.

I think writing gives more time to think about the content of whatever the prof is saying rather than trying to get it down verbatim when the detail is in the book.

Peas InOurThyme said...

This is all part of that sub-second response time which was so much in vogue at one time.