A few weeks ago, I came across a thought-provoking New York Times‘ article, Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting.
Susan Dynarski, a professor of education, public policy and economics at the University of Michigan, has banned almost all electronic devices during her classes and research seminars.
Her rationale for the ban is the growing number of evidence that shows that overall, college students learn less and earn worse grades when they use computers or tablets during lectures.
The reason? Laptops distract from learning.
The debate over the negative effects of laptops on learning is an on-going one, and for some, banning electronic devices altogether from lectures halls and seminars might seem like an extreme measure.
But, I’m with Susan on this one.
The time I broke my laptop
It was fall 2014.
I had just entered my third-year undergraduate studies, and like most other students I carried my laptop to every class and spent half the time frantically typing lecture notes and the other half frequently checking my email and twitter feed.
One day, the inevitable happened.
My water bottle spilled in my bag and destroyed my pricey laptop.
I cried when the repair guy told me I’m better off buying a new one. I sobbed over the phone while I told my dad what the repair guy told me.
For over a month, I didn’t have a laptop, and I was forced to invest $4 for a fancy notebook and start taking lecture notes… *gasp*… by hand, which completely changed my learning experience.
Without the distraction of consistently checking my email and twitter feed, I followed class lectures intently, took detailed notes, and began to participate in discussions often. I absorbed the material better and my grades began to improve.
As a result, my grades improved!
I took lecture notes by hand for the remaining of my undergraduate studies. I realized my passion for sociology and ended up doing my M.A. in Sociology after I graduated.
Here’s a graph of my sessional average throughout my undergraduate program:
Of course, there are many other factors to consider for improvement in my grades. Correlation does not imply causation, and so forth.
If anything, I realized a notebook is a lot lighter to carry around than a laptop.
The point of this article is not about my grades, but rather a contribution to the debate on the impact of technology on learning from my personal experience.
In the real world, nobody cares about your grades.
And, that’s okay.