“Do Laptops Help Students in Class?”

We live in a technological age. It seems like with every blink, there are new devices. I still remember when I was in college and had MapQuest directions in my glove box to get me back and forth to campus. When the GPS was introduced, I was terrified. What if the phone died? What if I lost signal?

Many businesses are transitioning to online services and features. It is becoming more common for students and professionals to enter a class or meeting with a tablet or a laptop instead of a pad of paper. Many find the technology to be quite helpful. But could it also be a distraction? NCES founder Carole Richards discusses this in her latest article.


Carole Email Pic

Do Laptops Help Students in Class?
by Carole Richards

Published August 2016

I’m not suggesting all computer learning is bad, but we need rethink when and where laptops and other devices should be used, or banned.

“I’m banning laptops from my classroom,” says professor Stuart Green, Rutgers Law School. (Click here to read the article.) His reasoning is sound and convinces me that that technology is not always good for learning. Professor Green moves from the front of his classroom to the rear to observe his students. He found students:

  • Emailing, texting, and posting on social media, looking at YouTube videos and shopping.
  • Watching sports events during the entire class session.
  • Checking out job sites.

Professor Green says he can only imagine what goes on when he’s up front during a lecture.

Common sense suggests that students taking notes on a computer, have a lower understanding of class discussion. And these students tend to create a transcript of his lecture rather than synthesizing the information.

In a recent study, students who had a direct view of a multi-tasking classmate scored lower on a test compared to those who were not. (Click here to read the study.) The students near the multi-tasker were also affected by technology.

In our office, when I ask one of our staff to call a client, usually he or she chooses to send a text message or an email. I believe that a phone call is often more effective because personal contact is so important.

I read an article about the reasons online education entrepreneurs fail. It was interesting because two that I know about … have recently failed. Could it be because something is missing from online learning? Could it be the personal attention and relationships with a teacher? I believe personal relationships are critical in education and business.

The personal relationship of student/teacher is an important part of learning. When students feel connected, rewarded and praised, they flourish and are more successful. I know technology, the internet, and online learning are all here to stay. But I know that we must question whether this technology will ever replace a competent, caring, sensitive, and creative teacher.

It’s something to think about sometime when you are not online!



Carole Richards is president of North Coast Tutoring Services, president/director of the Academic Fun & Fitness Camp at Lakeland Community College, author of Richards Learning Systems ®. She is a frequent guest on radio and TV. She can be reached at caroler@northcoasted.com.

Share This

About the Author

Dave Hoffman