Defining Learning in the Classroom

Laptops are becoming prominent in the world today. They are needed in the everyday work environment, schools, student homework, etc. When the laptops are being used in the classroom are they helping by enhancing student’s grades, or are they just causing more of a distraction. There are different ways to go about looking at this, what the students are thinking, what are some other options to look into, and what is going on now with laptops. Another option to consider besides laptops is tablet computers. They allow the student to stay more focused and they aren’t able to go wander on other website. The students are saying how they are becoming distracted when laptops are in front of them without a specific focus, but some still find them beneficial. Laptops aren’t going anywhere, they are just becoming more advanced and more integrated, it’s important to look at this and evaluate where to go from here.


A big part of laptops in the classroom is whether or not they are more of a distraction.


They allow the students the freedom to take notes over what is going on in class, but also the freedom to surf the internet and chat with their friends. Because of this freedom it is being called into question how much learning is actually being done in the laptop classroom. According to the Webster’s New World Dictionary, learning is defined as, “the acquiring of knowledge or skill.” In college, this acquired knowledge is typically proven through tests and quizzes, but when laptops are thrown into the classroom is knowledge being more or less obtained? Studies have shown that when a professor stands in front of the class and lectures, the students don’t obtain nearly as much information compared to the active classrooms. One study was done using Tablet Computers, which are computers that allow the students to be interactive during the class by answering questions, taking notes on lectures, and making graphs and diagrams for more science based or math classes. A tablet computer is a more specialized laptop; it allows the user to write on the screen as if they are writing on paper, but without the freedom of surfing the internet. An ILN is an Interactive Learning Network, it, “conduct[s] immediate and meaningful assessment of student learning, and provide[s] needed real-time feedback and assistance to maximize student learning”


(Enriquez, 2010). This study which was conducted tested two different groups. One group was given Tablet PC’s and the other had a typical lecture class with little interaction between the students and professor. This study proved that the class given the Tablet PC’s scored on average 7 points better on the test and final exam. It also showed higher attendance rates in the classes along with an increase from 87% to 95% with homework completion. Students were more attentive and focused in the classroom which allowed them to feel more confident when completing the assignments.


Because laptops are being more incorporated into the school systems, it is important to look at how the students are viewing this change. Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, posted an article on “Thoughts on Technology and Learning: From the Students View,” where they questioned a group of students. It asked them questions such as, how does technology help your learning? One student replied, “Technology is a great aid in my learning… it allow[s] the professor or students to communicate knowledge and ideas in new and exciting ways, it also eases the ability to then access that information for later perusal”(Sung, Crist, & Savage, 2000). Another student claimed how he was more of a kinesthetic learning and by having the laptop in front of him and being active he was able to remember more of the information. The students from this article go on to explain how professors are able to post their lectures and PowerPoint’s which make it easy to access them from their dorms or where ever they may be. Victor, one of the students questioned, states that, “…technology can clearly be an opportunity for interaction between the educator and the material, the material and the students, the students and each other, and finally, the educator and the students” (Sung, Crist, & Savage, 2000). This sums up the main argument about having laptops in the classroom. It comes down to the information which is being presented, how it’s being presented, and how attentive the class is with the laptops. Another article from the same school analyzed whether or not laptops are actually useful. One student claimed that he was able to email the teacher his questions. That made it so he got a quicker response and didn’t have to worry about trying to find a time to coordinate with the professors’ office hours. Another student wrote about how having laptops in the classrooms allow students to do group research over something they may be discussing in class right on the spot, instead of everyone going home, doing the research, and then getting back together and organizing it. The final question they asked on this survey was how are laptops are useful in class with software applications. A student answered, “Having laptops in class does make you more engaged with the material if you want to be. Having my laptop allows me to follow along with the teacher. This helps me remember the different ways to solve the problems because, not only do I see how to do it, I actually do it” (Bruff, 2002). This isn’t the same scenario for everyone, but it’s something to consider when decided how useful laptops are in the classrooms.



In giant lecture classes teachers and students complain about how students are on their laptops using Facebook or Skyping other students. On Facebook the students are able to chat with their buddies, comment on status, and play games, one of the ultimate distraction websites. Skyping allows the students to have a video conference with their friends, and by plugging in head phones no one can hear the person on the other end talk. Needless to say, students aren’t getting very much learning done if they are sitting in classing goofing around and not paying attention. One idea which has been proposed is the idea of contract learning. Contract learning is when the student and teacher meet and make a proposal over what is going to be accomplished throughout the semester; it’s the next best thing to a legally binding agreement. According to the website, “The use of learning contracts allows the student to structure their own learning; to be an active participant in the process of education” (Codde).


A typical classroom today has quizzes and tests and other activities which help build up your grade and give you something to strive for, such as an A in the class. The downfall about this process though is that each student learns differently and by giving everyone the same tests and such, it may stress out students and lead them to cheat or have intense anxiety. The learning contract defines what amount of work the student will put in, times at which they have to prove what they have learned, and how much actual credit it given to them for completing the task, it allows them to be active in the learning environment, another quote states, “Education has to be an active rather than passive process. To be active, students must participate in the process of education and become more independent and responsible for their own learning” (Codde). The site goes on to explain how these contracts are in use in order to make a more level playing ground. Some benefits of them are that they make the learning environment less stressful, each student knows what they need to do and how they are able to accomplish that. If teachers decide to use laptops in the classroom, they need a way to keep the student focused and productive. By using learning contracts they are able to allow the freedom of laptops as long as the students are still accomplishing the tasks that they need to.


Another article titled “In-Class Laptop Use and Its Effects on Student Learning” contains statistical data which fights against having laptops in the classroom. It tested 137 students from a large Psychology lecture class and started by having them each fill out a survey at the end of each week. This continued on for 20 class sessions, which became equivalent to 10 surveys. The first couple surveys asked questions about how often the student attended the class, whether they used their laptops, and if they did use their laptops then approximately how often they used them and for how long, and so on. At the end of the semester when all the data was collected they discovered that over half the class used their laptops at some point during the semester. “Users reported that they multitasked…for an average of 17min out of each 75min class period” (Fried). The students who were multitasking reported checking their email, messaging friends, playing games, and more. Once the results were in, they stated that the students who used their laptops most in class ended up having the worst class participation. They were constantly distracted and so thus they weren’t paying attention. The report also stated that there is a ‘negative correlation’ between the students who were on laptops and the comprehension of the lecture. While schools are beginning to incorporate laptops into the classroom there are some teachers who refuse to have them at all. Studies are showing that Students who have their laptops in the classroom and actively using them are prone to doing worse in the class. Laptops aren’t completely bad though. Those classrooms which require laptops for in-class work, where the students are using them for the class, do increase productivity. They allow the student to say focused and in the end are proven to be very helpful. There needs to be a control though on how the laptops are being used.


Ubiquitous laptops is a saying that means laptops are being used everywhere for everything. In the classroom, especially, laptops are being integrated to enhance student learning. According to the article, “Ubiquitous Laptop Usage In Higher Education: Effects On Student Achievement, Student Satisfaction, And Constructivist Measures In Honors And Traditional Classrooms,” it is stated that, “A goal for technology in the teaching and learning process is that it becomes transparent and that there are universally available tools that enable students to learn and teachers to teach with greater efficacy and efficiency” (Wurst, Smarkola, Gaffney). By having laptops in the classroom studies are showing that they can have a negative impact on student learning. Instead of students using them for note taking and paying attention they are multitasking and becoming more distracted. On the other hand though, there are studies which show that computer based classes have improved grades when laptops are used in the classroom. The article continues to talk about constructivist learning, which encourages the students to plan their own ways of learning and plan out how they are going to go about and obtain the knowledge they need for class. This study showed that the constructivist learners had a positive correlation when laptops were integrated into the classroom. These types of classrooms involve students getting into groups and working together, making it more of an active learning environment. Students are more in control and use the teacher as more of a guide and helper, and the classroom isn’t as structured as other classes. This study was called the “Laptop Initiative” it consisted of an honors freshman business course integrating the use of ubiquitous laptops. There were two separate groups, those who had their own laptops and then those who were loaned laptops by the university, and their goal was to answer these four questions, “Are the honors classrooms more constructivist than the traditional (non-honors) classrooms? … Has the introduction of ubiquitous laptop computing increased the level of constructivist activities in the honors classrooms? … Has student achievement, as measured by GPA, improved since the introduction of laptop computers? …Have reported levels of student satisfaction increased since the introduction of laptop computers?” (Wurst, Smarkola, Gaffney). The groups consisted of approximately 27 students; all of them were approximately around the age of 22, and the 10 professors. The laptops were mostly used for individual work, projects and communication. In answer to the first of the four questions, the students claimed that yes the classrooms were more constructivist than a typical classroom. The second answer was that no the activities have not increased. The third answer was that GPA did increase a little bit with those who had laptops, but there wasn’t much of a significant difference. The fourth answer was that yes some student satisfaction did increase but 78 percent of the students with laptops stated that they became distracted in the classroom because of the possibility of all the internet activities. The study concluded that yes integrating laptops could be helpful as long as there are certain circumstances which surround them. This study was taken with an honors class where the professors are able to be more focused and the classroom is a more intense environment compared to the large lecture classes. The GPA of the honors students did increase minimally and the laptops were shown to be not very impacting. The students also stated that they became distracted in the classroom with the access to internet and if this was to be taken into serious consideration then professors need to set a control on the laptops in order to inhibit the students from getting distracted.  

Alexa M.

Works Cited

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