“Laptops Hurt Rather Than Help,” Kelly Conroy (2011) — Inquiry 3

As you look into a classroom, the ideal sight one would want to find is one where students are at their desks, taking notes feverishly, eager to participate in class, and paying full attention to the lecture at hand. While this is the idea of what a classroom should look like, this is not always the case. With the rising trend of using technology in the classroom, there are more distractions that students are now faced with. Putting a laptop in front of a student could be seen as a good idea to allow them to take better notes, work faster, be more efficient, but is this the case? With a laptop in class, students can freely check their e-mail, surf the Internet, and check any of their preferred forms of social networking. Laptops are a problem in the classroom; they are negatively affecting student’s schoolwork and physical health which are aspects schools should be concerned with. Laptops are distracting both students and teachers because of the student’s reliance on the Internet and other forms of social networking.

There has been recent debate on whether laptops should be allowed in the classroom or not. Laptops became an option for students to keep them engaged in the class. Students can use their laptops in class to take notes, look up information, and pull up documents teachers have posted. While the intention is to allow students to use laptops for learning purposes, laptops are used for other things as well that may not be seen as classroom appropriate. Teachers cannot be everywhere in the classroom at once.  So, students are able to surf the Internet, check email, and do whatever else they want. With all of these distractions, are students truly benefitting from the laptops in front of them? Some feel that the benefits of their use outweigh their potential to distract. Others recognize their distraction and feel that it is hurting students.

Laptops are a distraction in the classroom because they give the students the opportunity to do whatever they want during class. The option of taking notes and paying attention to the lecture is always an option but when the rest of the wireless world is at their fingertips it is easy to give into the temptation to check the Internet. After observing and recording students and their behaviors in the classroom, Nworie writes, “Laptops and other forms of technology can cause distractions and disruptions in the classroom. Students have been known to use them while class is in session for instant messaging, sending and receiving emails, and playing computer games” (Nworie). These distractions cause a problem because they prevent the students from paying full attention and from benefiting from classroom instruction. From my interviews with various students, they said that it is very difficult to focus at times because it is easy to get distracted by students who are on their computers, watching videos, looking at pictures, etc. On this topic, Miami student, Kaylyn Lambeck said, “ It is very easy to get online and check my email and Facebook when I am bored in class” (Lambeck).  When students are using their computers in class, doing other things besides paying attention, they are being distracted and missing a lot of the important information they should be learning.

Laptops are a distraction to students but because of this they are also a disturbance for many teachers as well. When a teacher is in front of a class they would like to think that the students are learning and benefiting from what they are saying. It is frustrating to discover that instead of paying attention to what they are teaching, students are doing other things on their laptops. One of my current professors expresses strongly his opinion of laptops in his classroom, he writes, “Inappropriate use is rude to me and distracting to those around you. I work hard to prepare lessons” (Hahn). He is tired of students not paying attention to the material he is presenting and even threatens to ban laptops from the classroom. Laptops are a privilege for those who want to use them appropriately, and this privilege should not be abused.

Laptops are not only negatively affecting students in the classroom but outside of it as well in their own lives.  The use of laptops is affecting the physical aspects of student’s lives. After studying the different affects of students who use laptops versus those who do not, Trimmel writes, “Laptop students rated stronger physical discomfort at the locations of the head, neck, back, arms, eyes and hands” (Trimmel). If schools are promoting the use of laptops they should also promote the health of their students as well. If they want their students to succeed they should also work to ensure that their students are healthy. It is sad to think that the overuse of technology could have a negative affect on students and their physical health in their futures. Trimmel also writes, “Laptop students are exposing themselves to long-lasting poor postures with laptop use, which is of particular concern as it occurs during critical periods of their skeletal growth” (Trimmel). When a student is at their laptop all day long their backs are constantly being hunched over their keyboard, which eventually will cause some pain and discomfort.  If students did not have laptops in front of them, they would be less likely to sit hunched or be staring at a screen all day. This would benefit their eyesight and posture.

Our society has become so reliant on the Internet that people have gotten to the point where they cannot live without it. Students have gotten to the point where they rely on the internet for everything from looking up information to communicating through multiply social networks. From college student interviews, I have found that students say they are on their laptops all the time. Student, Kelcie Mehwald says, “If I’m not sleeping, I’m on my computer”(Mehwald). Mehwald along with other students say, “I use my computer 30% of the time for schoolwork and the other 70% for other things such as shopping, email, Facebook, etc. There are hardly any times when I am not on Facebook and other sites, I even have it on my phone” (Mehwald). Many other college students can relate to Kelcie and spend most of there time on their computers.

While many would agree that laptops are a distraction in class there are some who feel that they are very beneficial in the classroom. Third-year PhD student, Scott Wagar, talks about his opinion on laptop use in the classroom. He states, “Laptops can facilitate a number of activities: peer review of student writing, in-class research, note-taking, online discussions student writing and of assigned readings, freewriting, and in-class work on rough drafts of essays or multimedia projects” (Wagar). He makes good points that laptops can be beneficial when working on in class projects, but they should be limited to only using them during projects. If laptops are used during other parts of class such as lecturing, they are a distraction to students and teachers and are no longer beneficial.  Wager admits that they could possibly be a distraction but defends this by saying, “Younger people who have grown up with the Internet, cell phones, etc., could be better at multitasking such as checking Facebook occasionally during class, compared to older people” (Wagar). Even if students today can multitask better now than in the past, it is still very rude to do other things in class instead of what is expected of you in class.

Students have become reliant on their laptops, the Internet and social networking. Their schoolwork and health are negatively affected because of the use of laptops in the classroom. Teachers are distracted by the rude behavior from students on their laptops. In class, students are constantly using there computers for these searches and, when they are not doing that, instead of taking notes many are doing other things online. The easy access to these distracting sites is distracting to students and preventing them from getting everything necessary out of the class and lecture. Because they are always on the computers health complications are also a concern. It is time to take down the wall that separates students from teachers and allow students to learn in an environment with fewer distractions.

Works Cited

Hahn, Albert. E-mail interviw. 21 OCT 2010. Interview.

Lambeck, Kaylyn. Personal interview. 25 OCT 2010. Interview.

Mehwald, Kelcie. Personal interview. 25 OCT 2010. Interview.

Nworie, John, and Noela Haughton. “Good Intentions and Unanticipated Effects: The Unintended Consequences of the Application of Technology in Teaching and Learning Environments.” TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning 52.5 (2008): 52-58. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 21 Oct. 2010.

Trimmel, Michael, and Julia Bachmann. “Original article Cognitive, social, motivational and health aspects of students in laptop classrooms.” Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 20.2 (2004): 151-158. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 24 Oct. 2010.

Wager, Scott. E-mail interview. 28 OCT 2010. Interview.