Students Take Laptops Home, And So Should Teachers
New study suggests that allowing students to take laptops home for lunch breaks and off-campus allows them to build a stronger foundation academically than taking them back to the classroom.
Even though students typically take laptops home when they’re in summer break, a new study indicates that allowing them to do so during breaks and during breaks while still at school makes for a stronger foundation academically.
Princeton University researchers studied the effects of laptops on students’ math and language arts performance during school break and while they were gone and found that the use of laptop computers increased classroom understanding while they were at home.
Children showed a greater increase in vocabulary and better math instruction while taking laptops home compared to the exact opposite when they were back in school.
Laptops impact students’ academic performance, so efforts to make schools more interactive are a good idea — even if they entail giving students their own devices.
This is especially true when focusing on improving what students learn over what teachers say is more important — the ability to interact and show their knowledge.
“If you want to improve kids’ reading comprehension, use books,” Paul Cheung, the lead researcher on the study, said. “If you want to improve kids’ reading comprehension, have more content interaction — buy the right books, hand them out. … These are things we’ve known for a long time.”
Cheung and his colleagues hope their findings can help establish a curriculum in middle schools that is designed to improve students’ math and language arts performance while they are out of school.
The results of the study also appeared in the July/August issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology, a peer-reviewed journal that studies theory about effective instructional environments.
Results of the study also suggest that classrooms should have more teachers who are digitally literate.
More Learning and More Engagement
During class time, student learning decreased 10 percent when students took laptops home, although the impact of laptops on students’ health was minimal.
Students took laptops home for lunch breaks and also often when they were off campus.
“We were surprised by how much it has a positive effect on student learning even though it comes at the expense of leaving the classroom for a period of time,” Cheung said.
Nearly half the students of the group taking the laptops home were able to answer a math question correctly, compared to 10 percent in the classroom.
Students in the homework section of the study weren’t as engaged as students who were in the general language arts class. However, the teachers that did assign math homework in the labs where the study was conducted — where both groups of students saw math homework — saw double the retention rates of students who were taking laptops home.
There may be a connection between laptops in the lab environment and higher retention rates.
“The math students using laptops were showing some improvement in their math skills. They were better at problem solving because they were having conversations with the software,” Cheung said. “They were also better able to imagine the math problem, which may have a lot to do with them being able to picture the problem.”
For older students, using laptops provided a more engaging classroom experience.
“Teachers in labs that were allowed to have students using laptops by themselves were much better at helping them,” Cheung said. “They were being much more thoughtful and collaborative about what they were doing with the computer.”
The study was conducted with data from 246 students at six middle schools in two northern California school districts.