And no, it doesn’t matter whether students are connected to the internet during class or not. Research was done with

the laptops … not connected to the Internet. This means the results are not due to students spending time checking e-mail or surfing the Web. In most settings, such distractions will only impair performance even more. Indeed, prior research has found that laptop multitasking impairs learning and can even have negative effects on non-laptop users sitting nearby.

If you ask UD, who has been railing against classroom laptop use for years (see some of her posts here), this activity is on the face of it obviously any idiot can see plain as the nose on your face socially as well as intellectually destructive. A lot of professors – for murky reasons – have been sitting on their asses waiting for the research we all knew would come out to come out… But even with insane amounts of research confirming what anyone with common sense would have known a decade ago, plenty of professors will cleave to the laptop. Why?

(And by the way don’t even think about fully laptopped/online degree programs and their capacity to teach people anything. There’s a reason UD calls online programs cheesy.)

Well, the reasons aren’t pretty. Let’s see.

Do whatever you want! I’m afraid of you… I want a good course evaluation… The university is worried about attrition rates and has decided to give in to all of your demands… You pretend to be taking a class, and I’ll pretend to teach. This won’t put a strain on either of us… Lecturing is authoritarian. The last thing you want is some Hitlerian up here talking to you as if she has something to impart that you don’t already know or can’t find on your computer… You’re all too timid to look up from your screens and contribute to a discussion… Thank God for the laptop, which allows you to hide behind your screens and keep to yourself during class rather than be challenged in the unpleasant way of the seminar!…

And if you have a professor with a fully laptopped classroom who also depends almost exclusively on PowerPointed lectures where she (head down, monotonally) reads from each slide? Yikes.

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3 Responses to ““The act of typing effectively turns the note-taker into a transcription zombie, while the imperfect recordings of the pencil-pusher reflect and excite a process of integration, creating more textured and effective modes of recall.””

  1. david foster Says:

    Also, there seem to be a lot of K-12 school districts that plan to replace printed textbooks (and, I bet, eventually library books) with electronic equivalents. WIthout benefit of formal research, I suspect that reading long documents on a computer or tablet (other than the e-ink variety, such as Kindle) doesn’t work all that well, and that most people, especially kids, will tend to skim rather than closely read than would be the case with a printed book. This is not so much a problem with the e-ink devices…personally, at least, I have no difficulty reading long & dense books on Kindle..but I suspect most schools will choose to buy a common device type for reading and for more interactive activities, which will drive them toward the conventional screen type…and, if my hypothesis is correct, inhibit the development of good reading skills.

  2. adam Says:

    Then there’s this NYT piece about the difference between handwriting and other things: http://tinyurl.com/nenvvny. It’s about engaging and organizing the brain and its contents through the physical act of writing.

  3. Jack/OH Says:

    My student days are well behind me, but, yeah, I think there’s a sort of “on the face of it” case that classroom laptops–at the very least–are significantly different from traditional note-taking in one’s own hand. (I did sales training years ago, and laptop transcription would, I suspect, have diminished my own public engagement—intonation, body language, pauses, etc.—with the subject, which, I’d like to think, is how I made my impression on the trainees. )

    Although this is beside the point, I attended a political action meeting a few years ago. Laptops and thumb drives were at the ready when the Great Leader spoke. I knew in about two minutes the Great Leader didn’t actually know anything about the subject matter. Those laptops still kept a-chatterin’, though.

    Thanks, also, to david foster. There was an “Atlantic” article, later expanded into a book, about computerized texts altering how we think. It seemed persuasive to me, at least to the extent of thinking there’s something going on with the Web, and it’s not all to the good.

    Ditto, adam. I’m biased. I still occasionally use fountain pens. I’m pretty sure I’ve read similar articles about cognitive benefits deriving from actually building your own letters and words with a pen or pencil.

    I read the linked article. Administrators ought to completely defer and support their professors on this.

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