Computers are a central part of modern life. For students, this is doubly true—we all wrestled with the broken SIS and registered for classes through a computer, we access our coursework in Canvas through a computer, we write our papers on a computer, and so on and so forth. Laptops specifically, with their portability and convenience, are staples of the college environment. They are indispensable tools for academic success, and their use can, and should, extend to the classroom.
In class during lectures, laptops provide a fantastic alternative to handwriting notes. According to an article from The Wall Street Journal, the average student handwrites notes at 22 words per minute, but can type their notes at 33 words per minute. When you’re in class with a professor who glides from one topic to the other without pause, the faster pace of a keyboard will keep you from getting lost in a deluge of information. And, speaking for those of us whose penmanship is lacking, I prefer the complete legibility of notes appearing in a word document. It’s much easier to come back to and study from that, than it is to decipher chicken-scratch handwriting.
Furthermore, with proper implementation, laptops serve to increase student engagement with course material. When the professor is kind enough to make their powerpoint lectures available online before class, students can use their laptops to follow along with lessons, without feeling rushed to scribble down the professor’s information in addition to what appears on slides.
In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, it was found that courses which included interactivity between students’ laptops and the lecture subject matter led to students reporting higher than average levels of learning and engagement.
It seems that the primary misgiving regarding the use of laptops in the classroom is that they serve as a gateway to sites such as Facebook and YouTube, which some believe students are more likely to access instead of using their laptops as learning tools. However, if a student brings their laptop to class and is ultimately distracted by it, that does not speak to the ineffectiveness of the laptop as a resource that lends itself to academic success. Rather, if anything should be taken to task in such a scenario, it should be the student who demonstrates so little investment in their education. To blame the laptop in the case of a distracted student is to absolve the student of any responsibility they have in their personal academic pursuits, disregarding their misuse of a valuable tool.
When used correctly, laptops are undeniably effective resources for students to utilize in their studies. Their usage in the classroom should not be denied because of some pretense that they serve as possible distractions. Rather, with the knowledge that laptops can serve to aid students’ understanding of material, students and professors should make conscious efforts to include laptops in their classrooms to better the learning experience as a whole.