[STAFF EDITORIAL] Stop allowing (or creating) tech distractions in class


Melissa Nie

When given the option, will you shut the laptop screen and open a notebook to take control of your success in school?

The teacher is talking, but how much do students listen? Phones are tucked away, out of students’ hands. Distractions are supposed to be minimized, but laptop screens are open, notifications are popping up, and games are tempting. Laptops are just as successful as phones to pull focus away from note-taking, writing, projects, and class in general; when laptops are optional, few students close their screen and look up.
In a survey conducted by The Canadian Press in 2013, more than a third of students admitted to playing games during class with school-distributed tablets. In a more recent study published by the Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 234 of 478 surveyed students admitted to using technology for unproductive reasons during class, and the majority said that the technology had a negative impact on their ability to learn. Even though laptops are supposed to be a learning tool, instead of learning by listening to the teacher, students are distracted by the screens.
Here at SPA, 80% of faculty have an advanced degree and have spent, on average, 21 years of teaching here. The faculty have devoted their lives to education and have a passion for their subject and students. How do students honor this expertise? When even one person in the class is not attempting to pay attention, and instead are playing a game, it sends a strong message of disrespect to the faculty. It may not seem like a big deal to play a game during a dull point in the class, but in fact, it damages the ability to learn the material, distracts peers, and disrespects the years that the teachers have put in to teach the students.
Laptops are often encouraged by teachers for note-taking and in-class learning. In the study published by the Canadian Journal, 32% of teachers didn’t appreciate laptop use during class. But the use of laptops considerably decreases the amount of learning occurs.
In a Stanford study, the more students with open laptops, the less clear the lectures were, the more difficult the material seemed, and the lower the class performed on tests. Interestingly, it was also found that students who spent their time on non-related class websites recalled significantly more information than those who browsed course-related sites and took notes. Substantially more information is retained with the process of handwriting than typing. When given the option, will you shut the laptop screen and open a notebook to take control of your success in school?
Computers, like phones, have a time and place in the classroom, but it is not all of the time. Put away the laptop when the teacher doesn’t declare it necessary. It’ll show more respect for the teachers, and you’ll better understand the material. With midterms right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to put away the screen and open a notebook during review classes. Your brain will make connections to the material faster, leading to quicker studying, and less stressful exams.