Are Laptops Really Bad For Learning?

Darren Kuropatwa,, Sept 08, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

In this good summary of the results of the recent study comparing note-taking with pen and laptop Darren Kuropatwa also points to the underlying reason to be sceptical about the conclusion. In the three studies  students performed better on tests after taking notes with the pen, rather than the laptop. The study authors suggest "laptops may be doing more harm in classrooms than good." But that's not what the results show. Rather, Kuropatwa notes, "laptop is highly correlated with verbatim note-taking," which is not an effective way to take notes. A broef oral warning would not be enough to change that tendency. "Students don't automatically know how to take notes; it's a learned skill, one we have to teach." Moreover, he says, "we have to ask, is taking notes in a lecture hall what we mean by "learning"? Surely what we mean by 'learning' is a far richer experience than that." Correct, on both counts.

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