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Study reveals how laptops affect education

May 5, 2011

Look anywhere around the UW-River Falls campus at any given time, and certainly there will be students working away diligently on their personal laptop computers.

According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, the “Millenials” generation is more likely to own a laptop computer than any other generation, with 70 percent of young adults aged 18-34 owning a laptop.

The Pew Research Center is a non-profit organization that does research and finds out statistics about Americans and changing trends in the United States.

This number might not seem very shocking, given the number of laptops that can be seen in classrooms and around the UWRF campus.

Campuses like UW-Stout even provide laptop computers for students to use, at an increased tuition rate.

According to Steve Reed, co-chair of the Information and Instructional Technology Council, the number found by the Pew Research Center is very close to what we see here on campus.

He said about 68 percent of incoming freshmen now own their own laptop when they come to UWRF.

Students aren’t just using their laptops in their dorm rooms, however. Classrooms are starting to fill up with students taking notes on personal laptops, and even with other new electronic devices such as iPads and tablets.

Junior Jamie Hansen said she prefers to take notes on her laptop, because it is easier for her to read them and to keep them organized than if she were writing notes in a notebook.

“I use a computer in the classroom so I can take notes as fast as the teacher talks,” said Hansen, a marketing communications major.

A study done in 2003 by researchers Helene Hembrooke and Geri Gay found that students who multitask on their laptops during class remember less than students who are not using a laptop.

Their study focused on two groups in a communications class. The group that was allowed to browse on their laptops while taking notes suffered lower retention than the group that wasn’t browsing.

Their study was published in the Journal of Computing in Higher Education Vol. 15(1).

Their study also found that the main cause of distraction in the classroom was other student’s computer use, followed by own computer use, other students talking, length of the class, other students coming and going, and the style of class.

Some UWRF students agree with the findings of the study, and feel they cannot achieve the same quality of learning when they are distracted by the temptations using a laptop in class brings.

Senior Londe Richardson said he prefers to take notes by hand that way he is really focusing on the lecture, and not sites such as Facebook.

“I can’t bring my laptop to class to take notes, its too hard not to get on the internet,” Richardson said,“Plus I think its annoying when I see other students checking their email or chatting on Facebook with their friends, it distracts me from what the teacher is saying.”