Laptop losers: Tech actually hindering kids in classrooms

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

pupils using laptops1Laptops may actually hinder students ability to learn, providing a distraction and even affecting students sitting near their owners, according to a stunning new Canadian report. With laptops and tablet computers pervading the modern classroom, the report suggests that paper and pencil might be less distracting overall.

"We really didn't think the effects would be this huge," explained McMaster University researcher Faria Sana, who co-authored the study with fellow doctoral student Tina Weston. "It can change your grade from a B+ to a B-.'

For their study, published earlier this year in the journal Computers & Education, Sana and Weston gave some students laptops to take notes, and asked them to complete a few unrelated tasks in their spare time. Other students were told given No. 2 pencils and the same tasks.

The test scenario was meant to ape a real classroom, Sana told the Canadian Press Association.

"We really tried to make it pretty close to what actually happens in the lectures,” she said.

Those students who multitasked on their laptops performed significantly worse than the pencil pushers – and surprisingly, the effect even reached to students sitting near the laptop users.

“Those who were seated around peers who were multitasking also performed much worse on the final test," Sana said.

With the pervasiveness of tech in today’s classrooms, students have known to grow distracted, surfing the Internet, playing games, or updating Facebook profiles rather than paying attention. And that’s the problem, the researchers said.

"A lot of students spend quite a big chunk of time in class doing things that are not related to the academic environment or aren't directly related to the course or the lecture," Sana said.

The same, it has to be said, is true for reading “on screen”. It is tiring for youngsters as much as for adults and a printed book is much easier to deal with. The same goes for forms and other materials.

And before anyone screams that I am advocating dead trees and the destruction of the rainforests through paper companies neither of this is true.

First and foremost no tropical rainforest timber can even remotely be made into pulp for the production of paper; it is far too hard. And secondly were it not for the responsible paper companies millions of acres of forests – though alas predominately softwoods – would not even exist.

In addition to everything we forget the environmental footprint generated by all those e-Readers and other devices for us to use, instead of paper. And the fact that so many institutions and governments are going “paperless” as far as forms and such are concerned has nothing to do with their concern for the environment but everything to do with the cost of printing, and that even goes for printing “in house”, which is every so easy, however, with a PC and a printer.

And, if it came to it there are other sources from which to make paper as well instead of trees. There is hemp, straw, and other materials too but sustainably managed forests from which paper is taken for pulp is still the best option of all. Why? Because those trees are replaced by the companies – or the forest owners other that the paper mills – by at least a ration of 3 to 1, often even a greater one. Thus there will young trees growing and absorbing carbon and that to a much greater degree than a mature tree.

Trust me, I am a forester...

© 2013