Much different than the 2011-2012 school year, a glance around any classroom at HHS will reveal a surprise: kids have laptops, and not laptops they checked out from the library. In fact, the new STEM program equipped all participants with a fleet of personal laptops. Yes, technology has finally entered the normal learning environment, but is it for the better?
A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University resulted in some interesting findings. One, students who used laptops actually did more work in total, as well as invested more time into assignments.
However, that does not mean those students have better work habits, and I know this from personal experience. The study showed that students often took extended breaks from their work to peruse the Web, check their email and Facebook, Twitter, YouTube; there are so many possible ways to procrastinate, it is impossible not to. Actually, while trying to complete an English poetry project this past week, I took a “break” from my work; rather, I spent over an hour looking at music on iTunes. Of course, I allow myself these breaks on account of efficiency. I consider the time saved from typing my assignments, which is actually about 35 minutes per assignment, as opposed to hand-writing them time available for entertainment purposes.
The tendency of going off on a tangent while working on a computer is definitely a concern of teachers in school. Most teachers actually do not mind students using laptops for notes or extended research during instructional time. But when they catch a student using their laptop for any other purpose, the laptop goes away for good.
Some students truly do benefit from using laptops in class. Students who write slowly, or learn better by typing their notes (such as how some learn better from hand-writing them), sometimes see themselves as “that guy who makes everyone wait for the next slide”. However, a laptop can expedite the note-taking process, and students no longer see themselves as inhibitors.
But let’s talk about the most serious issue with laptops: that dreaded typing sound. The clicking, clacking, clanging, banging, repeated-backspacing racket that inevitably occurs. In a quiet classroom setting, nothing is worse than being disturbed by someone’s insensitive typing. Now, more modern, elite computers like Macbooks have solved this problem with their super-quiet keyboards, but if you are classic Windows user like me, there is no escape. None.
In addition, unless your laptop has a battery life that lasts more than a few hours (i.e. everyone who does not own a Macbook), you can only use your laptop for half of the school day. Why? There are no outlets easily accessible for chargers. The nearest outlets are almost always on the walls,far away from your desk, behind the counter where teachers lay claim. So, unless you packed an extension cord, good luck charging your computer.
I would say that I support laptop use in the classroom. If you learn better by typing, go ahead and use one. If you can take notes more quickly, go ahead and use one. If you want to play Call of Duty during the day, go ahead and… wait, I can’t support that behavior, but you get my point. Technology is becoming essential to functioning on a daily basis, so it should be fully integrated into the classroom, as long as everyone remembers to be considerate when typing.