Do Laptops Hinder Or Increase Productivity

Do Laptops Hinder Or Increase Productivity?
Jeff Cunningham

The use of laptops in college classrooms is a very two-sided thought. On the one hand, it offers a faster, more engaging way for students to participate, and on the other hand, it can be a very detrimental form of distraction. College lecture halls are littered with laptop users. It seems the majority of students feel that it is quicker and easier to take notes on a laptop rather than on paper. Others prefer the old school technique of jotting down bits and pieces of a lecture in a notebook. It is true that the use of laptops has its benefits, but there is also much evidence that suggests laptop use can cause distractions and hinder productivity inside and out of the classroom.

Ways Laptops Increase Productivity

One definite reason to use technology in education is for research purposes. It can often be extremely difficult to find information about less mainstream topics without the use of the internet. Computer technology allows for a much quicker way of researching and consequently increases the level of productivity when doing assignments and projects. Microsoft Office is a great example of how much technology increases productivity. Creating spreadsheets for example, would take much longer being done by hand rather than using Microsoft Excel. It is no secret that nearly every single college student is at least somewhat proficient with a laptop. Just look in any big lecture hall at any college in the country and you will see the majority of students with a laptop in front of them.. The use of laptops in large lecture halls has its many benefits. “The goal for using laptop computers is threefold: one, providing students with an easy and convenient hands-on computing experience in a large lecture hall setting; two, enabling immediate implementation of the new programming concepts or procedures taught in class; and three, providing students with immediate feedback” (Barak, Lipson and Lerman). The instant feedback factor is key. Students are more likely to learn from their mistakes quicker if they see what they are doing wrong right away. Conducting in-class laptop quizzes can be a helpful tool for this exact reason. Concepts and ideas seem more likely to be retained if students can immediately see where they need improvement.
Among the benefits that technology integration offers, enthusiasm among students ranks at the top of the list. “Studies have shown that computers at school can have a beneficial effect not only on student achievement but also on students’ learning motivation, on classroom atmosphere, and on the teachers’ willingness to experiment with new and innovative instructional approaches” (Schaumberg). The ways that technology can excite students to engage themselves is virtually endless. “A project that can help integrate technology while truly getting the students excited about school is website creation” (Kelly). This can be a very creative way to get students involved. It allows them to be creative and original while simultaneously benefiting the entire class. Information and interpretation of concepts can be shared throughout the entire class. Ideas can be learned from other students’ renditions of material learned in class. This can be a refreshing change from the monotonous and pedantic ways that college textbooks explain concepts. This implementation of technology in the classroom is not bound exclusively to the United States. “The call for schools to move to a more technologically integrated approach to teaching and learning has been resonating among ministries or departments of education in various countries” (Chen, Looi and Chen).

Student-Professor Interaction Involving Laptops__

Laptop use is omnipresent in college environments. The ways they can be utilized is extensive. The methods in which students and professors can interact via laptop use continue to grow. Clemson University, for example, offers multiple laptop-required courses. All professors teaching these sorts of classes make everything that has been discussed in class available on the web (Yamamoto). Tests and quizzes can be done entirely on students’ laptops. A benefit of this is instant feedback, and allows the professor to see how his or her class is doing instantaneously. It can also show what the teacher needs to focus more intricately on. One professor at Clemson uses MS NetMeeting’s Whiteboard, with includes the use of an electronic whiteboard with an interactive electronic stylus to write notes directly onto the screen. These notes can then be saved as PDF files and loaded directly onto the internet for students to access from their laptops (Yamamoto). A statistics professor allows students to use their laptops to access and work with software running on the professor’s computer. Students can then take control of things like power points and spreadsheets and demonstrate and explain concepts to other students themselves. This type of recitation allows students to more actively apply and engage themselves. Math teachers use online worksheets that allow students to work through problems using a specialized step-by-step instruction program.


Another benefit that laptop integration offers is ease of communication. Programs like NetMeeting allow interaction between students and teachers to be possible even if the professor is out of the classroom. Or on the other hand, if a student is unable to attend class, they can log on to NetMeeting in order to take part in a lecture via webcam. Many benefits do indeed come from laptop integration in the classroom. “Laptops motivate some professors to keep lectures interesting” (Yamamoto).

Ways Laptops Hinder Productivity

Along with the many ways laptop use in the classroom enhances productivity, there are also ways that it can be a hindrance. With online testing and homework assignments, comes dishonesty. Answers can easily be emailed or instant messaged to each other or their absent classmates. Another problem lies in the fact that many students often are doing things other than what they are supposed to be doing during class time. Anything from browsing websites to playing games are common distractions. Some schools such as Georgetown and Harvard have even designated multiple “laptop free” zones because they believe that laptops can be some of the worst distractions there are (Yamamoto). Aside from the more benign ways students are abusing laptop privileges, there is a more disturbing side of the problem. There have been accounts of students abusing their laptop privileges in extremely inappropriate and even malicious ways. “Students at Liverpool High have used their school-issued laptops to exchange answers on tests, download pornography and hack into local businesses” (Hu). Schools that issue laptops to their students always encounter these inevitable problems. Sadly when high-tech equipment falls into the hands of students, problems almost always ensue. The intentions of schools that issue laptops to their students always seem good. “Many of these districts had sought to prepare their students for a technology-driven world and close the so called digital divide between students who had computers at home and those who did not” (Hu).


Another aspect to take into account is the fact that not all students are adept in areas involving technological proficiency. Whether it is because they were not raised in a family that utilizes computer technology, or any other reason, some students are not proficient with laptops. “The success of adopting technology is highly dependent of the students’ feeling comfortable with the use of technological tools” (Cauley, Aiken and Whitney).
There is an argument that laptop use in the classroom does not enhance productivity simply because the teacher has not mastered computer technology. “The instructor must be a better teacher. If he or she is only equally effective with laptops present, then the computers may as well be left in the student dorm rooms” (Campbell and Pargas). This is a true statement. If professors don’t know what they are doing when they try and create unique and interactive ways of teaching with laptops, then they may very well end up doing more harm than good. Lectures can turn into nothing but a waste of time.
It has become an absolute necessity that virtually every college classroom has access to wireless internet. This means that along with everything that students may be doing involving class material, they are also likely to be lured to all the distractions the internet has to offer. It would be difficult to regulate how students are using the laptop/internet in privileges. There is also evidence that laptop use in class can significantly lower test score averages. One professor at CU Boulder, Diane Sieber, saw that students who used their laptops on a regular basis in class scored 11% lower on their first test than their peers. She noted that after they discontinued laptop use in class, their test scores noticeably improved (Lovett).

Laptop Bans

Laptops undeniably can pose a great problem to students’ learning in the classroom. Laptop regulation solutions range from internet kill switches to limit students’ internet access to laptop use limitation. But some professors have even gone as far as to ban laptops from their classrooms altogether. One professor of law at the South Texas College of Law banned them from his classroom. “I banned laptop use in the classroom to see the effects on classroom discussion, students’ performance when called upon, and their proficient with the material on the final. Overall, I was very pleased with the results” (Yamamoto). Banning laptops from a classroom environment apparently does have its benefits. The obvious result is that students are automatically inclined to pay attention and consequently retain more information from lectures. Several professors from various schools have mandated a laptop ban in their classrooms. “Professors from Georgetown University Law Center, Harvard Law School, New York University School of Law, Rutgers School of Law, Newark, University of Memphis Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School and University of Texas School of Law have done so” (Yamamoto). Apparently professors at all of these universities have become fed up with the amount of distractions that laptops are causing. “June Entman, a law professor at the University of Memphis forbade students from bringing their computers to her civil-procedure class this spring, arguing that the devices were literally getting in the way of learning” (Young). The argument always seems to be that students’ attention is always focused on their laptop screens rather than the lecture. Others argue that it is not the students’ fault that they are distracted by the laptops. “The quality of instruction is to blame if students are seeking distraction online” (Young). This is in part true. If professors’ lectures are not engaging or interesting enough, students are bound to be drawn to the myriad of distractions offered by their computers. In the end however, it is mostly up to the students to decide whether or not the laptop is a useful and practical tool to use in the classroom.

Works Cited

1. Lovett, Haley A. "Students Using Laptops in Class do Worse on Tests." Finding Dulcinea. N.p., 29 Sept. 2010. Web. 23 Nov. 2010. <>.

2. Barak, Miri, Alberta Lipson, and Steven Lerman. "Wireless Laptops as Means For Promoting Active Learning in Large Lecture Halls." Google Scholar. N.p., 2006. Academic Search Premiere. Web. 10 Nov. 2010.

3. Schaumberg, Heike. "The Impact of Mobile Computers in the Classroom." Google Scholar. N.p., Nov. 2001. Web. 17 Nov. 2010.

4. Kelly, Melissa. "Integrating Technology into the Classroom." N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2010.

5. Chen, F. H., C K. Looi, and W. Chen. "Integrating Technology in the Classroom: A Visual conceptualization of Teachers' knowledge, goals, and beliefs." National Institute of Education, Singapore, n.d. Google Scholar. Web. 29 Oct. 2010.

6. Yamamoto, Kevin. "Banning Laptops in the Classroom: is it Worth the Hassles?." N.p., 2007. Academic Search Premiere. Web. 20 Oct. 2010. <>.

7. Hu, Winnie. "Seeing no Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops." New York Times, 4 May 2007. Google Scholar. Web. 27 Oct. 2010. <>.

8. Cauley, Fattaneh G., K D. Aiken, and L. K. Whitney. "Technologies Across Our Curriculum: A Study of Technology Integration in the Classroom." Journal of Education for Business. Heldref Publications, n.d. Ebsco. Web. 23 Oct. 2010.

9. Campbell, Andrea B., and Roy P. Pargas. "Laptops In the Classroom." Computer Science Department, Clemson University, n.d. Academic Search Premiere Web. 17 Oct. 2010. <>.

10. Young, Jeffrey. "The Fight For Classroom Attention: Professor vs. Laptop." N.p., 2 June 2006. Academic Search Premiere. Web. 23 Oct. 2010. <>.