Laptops in the Classroom

Since the focus of the class is now somewhere between Classroom of the Now and Classroom of the Future, I figured a good first topic would be something likely to be present in both: laptops in the classroom.

It seems like every class and teacher has a different opinion when it comes to laptops. Some believe that every single person should be on a laptop, while others will verbally reprimand you for opening a laptop on the first day of class.  This problem is still being debated because laptops are incredibly powerful tools, but also incredibly distracting.

Firstly, lets look at some of the advantages of laptops in the classroom.  These incredibly versatile tools allow for interactive lessons with polls and real-time questions during class time.  Having laptops available to students also allows for students to complete assignments electronically, becoming used to how much of the modern world operates and becoming familiar with common tools.  Research, such as this paper, has shown that young students perform better on typed writing assignments and problem solving questions.  This all seems to indicate that students do better when laptops are in the classroom.

The biggest counter-argument is distraction.  Laptops are too powerful; you can be scrolling through Facebook while watching Youtube and listening to music, all while sitting in your chair in the classroom. Research into cognitive psychology of multitasking has provided evidence to support a very important theory: we SUCK at multitasking.  The human mind is not designed to deal perform multiple tasks at once.  So when studies like this one show that a “significant” number of students are multitasking when they use their laptop during class, we shouldn’t be surprised when the same studies show that laptop use is directly correlated with negatively-trending scores.  One student browsing the web during class also distracts every student around them, so its not even a personal choice; an innocent student can get sucked into the goofing off of another.

Purely from anecdotal experience, I’ve found that laptops in the classroom are extremely distracting.  With the proper lesson plan that makes the class interactive through laptops and enforces shutting them off during non-necessary times, they could be a good tool in the teacher’s arsenal.  To give laptop’s the go-ahead at all times, though, I think is a mistake that negatively affects student’s ability to learn

First Post!

Welp, first post of the blog!


We learned in our first class that the Senior Capstone Project was going to be formatted differently this year.  All of us would be doing real (!!) human factors work on a specific area of one topic, the CLASSROOM OF THE FUTURE.

I was a bit skeptical of the idea.  Thinking back on the classrooms I’ve been in, the only real advancement that made a difference was moving from blackboards to white boards way back when, purely because nobody has to experience that terrible noise. No other attempt at putting something new in the classroom has really done anything to further my learning.  More TV’s and computers have always distracted me and my classmates. Chairs are always uncomfortable when sitting through the droning lecture of your crazy cat-lady and madman teachers, no matter the design.

Then I thought about it some more.  Maybe my skepticism makes me the perfect person for this project.  I won’t get caught up in the razzle and dazzle of a classroom with walls made out of monitors.  I can be the one fighting to make changes that actually make a positive difference for learning.

I might be a bit curmudgeonly, but I feel that classrooms are pretty good as is.  But now is my chance to really examine that opinion using Human Factors principles that I’ve built up over the last few years.  I expect that there’s quite a few things that the “Classroom of the Future” has to offer, but I’m going to need to see some data, and that’s what this is all about!