PIDP 3260: Banning laptops in the classroom

laptops-in-classroom-580Article reviewed in this blog:

I chose this article (Rockmore, 2014) to review for my blog as I have often wondered about the use of laptops in the classroom. I am currently one of 8 simulation laboratory instructor in one course.  We all attend a one-hour lecture with the students and then proceed to the lab to apply the concepts from the lecture.  I usually bring my cell phone and laptop.  I find that within minutes, I am surfing a non-lecture related topic on my laptop or checking emails on my phone.  I have deliberately tried not to do this, only to find myself being able to hold out for around 15 minutes.  I am often embarrassed at the thought of setting a poor example for the students and am thus trying to make a conscious effort to pay attention to the lecture.

Last week I looked around the room to observe what the students were doing.  Our faculty requires that we download all our presentation in order to allow student access. Students usually make notes on their computer alongside our slides.  So, everyone has their computer open during lectures.  I was amazed to see that many of the students had the lecture minimized and were ‘surfing the net’, checking & sending emails, doing other assignments and reading non-lecture articles.  How could they possibly learn anything?  How could they expect themselves to follow lecture materials in the lab?  I was specially amazed by the talent of those who could devise a split screen of the lecture on the right and their internet items on the left of their screens. What great talent!

The article points out the views of instructors with the same concerns. He actually chose to ban laptops in his lectures as part of his ‘electronic etiquette policy’.   If one is on the computer and especially working on non-course related items, they are distracted.   A widely accepted idea of multitasking degrading performance has been often heard related to texting while driving.  This has been banned as it can cause a life threatening accident.  The same concept relates to class engagement.  Students can not be fully engaged in the classroom activities and lessons if they are multitasking on their laptops.  This idea was further supported by Cornell University (Hembrooke, 2003) study which split a class into half with laptops and half without.  The students without laptops performed much better in post-lecture quiz than those with.

              Further studies through Princeton University (Brown, 2014)) tested the level of learning while comparing students who actually took pen and paper notes as opposed to those who used a laptop.  This study showed much better performance immediately post lecture and one-week post lecture for those who used pen and paper when compared to computer using cohorts.  Typing added an element of another task distraction and a source of temptation to engage in non-course related activities.

              An interesting finding from the study conducted by Lawrence (2013) showed that laptops not only hinder the computer user, but also hinder the learning of the neighboring non-computer using students.  The study positioned students with no laptops randomly next to those with laptops. It showed that the pen and paper students were distracted and unable to adequately focus due their neighbors.   The sound of the computer tapping while typing as well as the content of the neighbor’s computer were both distractions.

              So, I think all faculties should reconsider the use of computers in the classroom.  Technology is great but we need to figure out how to use technological instruments for our betterment and not hindrance.

Reference List

Brown, K., & com, N. J. (2014, June 16). Princeton university study finds students more likely to learn by taking handwritten notes. Retrieved February 2, 2016, from

Hembrooke, H., & Gay, G. (2003). The laptop and the lecture: The effects of multitasking in learning environments. Journal of Computing in Higher Education Fall, 15(1), . Retrieved from

Lawrence, J. (2013, April 30). Study: Laptops in the classroom can distract, hinder learning. Retrieved February 2, 2016, from

Rockmore, D. (2014, June 6). The case for banning laptops in the classroom. Retrieved February 2, 2016, from




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