Reading & Reacting: Students’ use of laptops in class lowers grades

By Michael Olivera @ The Montreal Gazette

Having spent the last year teaching fully in a 1:1 environment, this article caught my eye immediately. I can say anecdotally I have observed a lot of the issues that are mentioned in this article. I am definitely curious to pursue the actual research and investigate a little more.

As more and more districts around me race to push more 1:1 initiatives, I have been amazed at the lack of grounded research decision makers use to make the case. Let me be clear that this observation does not mean that I am against 1:1 environments. In fact, I think there are some distinct advantages afforded by 1:1 computing, that when leveraged can provide powerful learning experiences. The immediacy, connectedness, available toolset, and potential engagement for students can supercharge a classroom, but it requires a great deal more planning, management, and, more than anything, restraint.

What I am not in favor of blind is wide-scale application of practices or technology in my classroom. Experimentation and mindfulness seem to me to be better ways to prepare for potentially sweeping changes and protect against the latest fad,

Again, research is continuing to disprove the myth of multi-tasking. A myth that continues to be remarkably persistent. Yet, what is most interesting to me about the findings in this article is how the researchers’ original hypothesis was eclipsed, the power of distraction proving even more potent.

At the end we gave a survey to all the students and what we found was that these peers who were seated around multitaskers had no idea they were being distracted, they didn’t think the laptops were causing a distraction but based on the scores of their final test, they actually were.

The fact that students were not even aware of how distracted they may be is definitely a new wrinkle. I can see the shock and disbelief on students’ faces when they realize that they need not even be the ones attempting to multitask to be impacted.

I also like the fact that the researchers were not alarmists but suggested that knowledge might be the first step toward encouraging individual responsibility. That has been the route that I have opted for in my classes. This research, however, is powerful evidence to share with my students justifying certain behavioral norms I will be expecting and why.

Image: iPad

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2 thoughts on “Reading & Reacting: Students’ use of laptops in class lowers grades

  1. Scott

    I read that study as well. I had hoped you would point out the volume and the large number of variables associated with it that could have also impacted the student results on the “quiz”. I think that study was far from accurate, although I don’t disagree with the premise that devices can be a distraction, I just believe this was a very weak study that gets a lot of play because of trend like LAUSD buying iPads for all their students.

    Thanks for writing your view, it’s an interesting topic.

    1. Fred Haas - @akh003 Post author


      You may be right about the study, as I have yet to read the actual research. I was responding more to the newspaper article which I thought had an interesting premise. Plus, having seen a lot of distraction first-hand I was interested. I keep wondering if age has anything to do with it or not.

      Nevertheless, thanks for taking the time to read and comment.



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