Monday September 07, 2015

Laptops in classrooms distracting students, teachers call for ban

Many teachers are now banning laptops saying they are distracting and work against information retention for students who are taking notes.

Many teachers are now banning laptops saying they are distracting and work against information retention for students who are taking notes. (nerdmeister, Flickr cc)

Listen 23:15

It's back to school season for college and university students across Canada. At Vancouver Community College, they're off to an early start. And many of the students there arrived with laptops in tow. 

Study: Research and Best Practices for Labtops in Classs (pdf)

Since the 1990s, universities and colleges across Canada have largely embraced technology. Many have encouraged the use of laptops and other devices among their students. But not everyone bought in.

Paul Thagard teaches philosophy and cognition at the University of Waterloo ... and when laptops started showing up in his classroom, he was skeptical.

"Students think they can multitask, but what they're really doing is flipping rapidly between one thing and another because attention is so limited. I tried various things and non of them worked very well. Then five years ago, I simply banned laptops altogether." - Paul Thagard, Professor

The idea that laptops can be distracting probably doesn't come as a shock. There is research to back up the idea that students who use laptops -- and even students who sit near students who use laptops -- are prone to distraction.

According to new research, laptops may be impeding learning even when they're being used purely for classroom tasks.

Pam Mueller is a newly minted PhD graduate from Princeton University and the co-author of a research paper called "The Pen is Mightier Than The Keyboard." She was in Los Angeles.

Chris Buddle teaches field biology and quantative ecology at McGill University in Montreal. He says it's impractical to ban laptops in class because they do have the potential to help students learn when used properly.
 

If you're a student or a teacher, tell us about your experiences with laptops and other devices in the classroom. Just don't do it while you're in class.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Gord Westmacott.