Every semester, college instructors face a choice: whether to restrict the use of laptops and other devices in their classrooms or to, instead, let students decide for themselves.
And for classrooms that do allow devices, students face an ongoing set of choices: to take notes electronically or by hand, to check the textbook or the text message, to check Instagram or Twitter.
A second possibility is that even legitimate course uses — such as taking notes — could be less effective on a computer. A study by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, published in 2014, found that students who took notes on a computer tended to copy down what they heard verbatim, without engaging in the deeper processing required for conceptual learning. On subsequent tests, students who had taken notes by hand outperformed those who used computers.
Finally, the authors speculate that teachers could be teaching differently, or interacting differently with students, when devices are present. If this is the case, it’s possible the teachers themselves don’t notice that they’re doing so.
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