Your laptop use might be hurting those around you

Mark Hendricks, Science and Tech Editor Ω

Laptops are supposed to help students in school, to make it easier to do class work and more efficiently take notes. However, bringing a laptop to your lecture may be hurting your grade more than it’s helping.

Open laptops when studying or in classrooms are a common sight on the TRU campus, but they might be impacting the focus of those around you. Mark Hendricks/The Omega

Open laptops when studying or in classrooms are a common sight on the TRU campus, but they might be impacting the focus of those around you. Mark Hendricks/The Omega

A study done earlier this year by researchers at York and McMaster University found that laptop multitasking in classrooms can lose, not only yourself but those around you, a full letter grade in the class.

The students that were using laptops for multitasking suffered an 11 per cent loss in learning comprehension, and those with a clear view of the multitasking student suffered a 17 per cent loss in learning comprehension.

This is the first study to examine the effects of multitasking on surrounding students, not just the multitasker. The bright lights of the laptop screen and the changing images cause students who aren’t multitasking to be even more affected than those doing the multitasking.

As the study puts it, “Disrupting one’s own learning is an individual choice. Harming the learning of other students in the class is disrespectful.” Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers.

99 per cent of students own a laptop and 65 per cent of students bring their laptop to class, according to the study. It was also found that 42 per cent of a student’s time in classrooms is spent multitasking.

“In general, paper and pencil control participants outperformed multitasking participants on the quiz assessments (particularly MSN and Facebook users),” as written in the study.

Professors at TRU are aware of the risk presented by laptops.

“I definitely encourage my students to turn that stuff off. Turn off your cellphone, turn off your computer and engage with the people. It’s a more human interaction,” TRU biology professor Jonathan Van Hamme said. “I always tell my students that I expect this will be the three hours of the week when they’re not staring at a computer screen.”

Van Hamme believes that putting away the laptops and phones allows students to achieve a deep level of thought and concentration that is impossible to obtain while worrying about a laptop or cell phone.