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Ban the Laptops, Yes

Oct 3, 2017 by

Mark Bauerlein –

A study just appeared in Education Next, under the title “Should Professors Ban Laptops?” The study worked like this:

Researchers went to West Point and tracked students in three sections of Principles of Economics. One section was technology-free—no laptops or tablets permitted in the classroom. A second section gave students the freedom to use laptops and tablets at their discretion, with no controls or requirements. A third section was “tablet only,” a method “designed to replicate the intended use of Internet-enabled technology as a non-distracting resource during class.” The aim of this section, and of such methods generally, was to implement technology in the classroom while preventing students from hijacking it for non-academic purposes.

The experiment was run with 50 classrooms and 726 students over two terms. Each instructor, too, taught at least one no-technology section and one of the other two sections. The decisive measure was performance by students on the final exam. The results were striking—and disappointing for people who believe that better classroom technology and implementation will produce higher student achievement.

Here is the finding for unrestricted technology use relative to no technology use: Exam scores dropped by 0.18 standard deviations.

And here is the finding for restricted technology use relative to no technology use: Exam scores dropped by only slightly less, 0.17 standard deviations.

The small difference suggests that attempts to streamline classroom technology to academic purposes alone are ineffectual or, when they are effectual, indicate that something inherent in the technology is part of the problem.

When we convert the numbers to GPA measures, the finding goes like this:

continue: Ban the Laptops, Yes | Mark Bauerlein | First Things

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