Laptops in class: learning tool or distraction?

by The Educator02 Dec 2014

All students would agree that laptops and tablets make learning fun, but as the adage goes, too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad.

While trials of the NAPLAN test online in 2013 found that students were more confident undergoing exams online, allowing students to be online throughout the entire duration of regular classes is something else entirely.

Teachers pleading for students to stop watching YouTube, stop chatting on social media and browsing unrelated sites on Google is not an uncommon scene in classrooms around the country.

To be fair, time will tell whether laptops and tablets are ultimately counterproductive to learning in the classroom, but not everyone is willing to wait in order to find out.

As the next generation of teachers prepare to enter classrooms, there is a sense that our students could be more distracted than ever given that the devices they use for leisure at home now sit in front of them on their desks in school.

Teacher graduate Michael Davison believes that the introduction of this technology into classrooms around the country is doing our students more harm than good.

“Outside the classroom, computers are seldom used for educative purposes,” Davison wrote in The Age.

“One should never underestimate the power of habit learnt through repetitive behaviour. Laptop in tow, it is these habits that students will bring into the classroom.

With this in mind, one of the biggest challenges for teachers will be discerning how to regulate something that has now become, in many cases, an intrinsic part of the classroom.

Put plainly, if the genie is out of the bottle, it won’t be easy to put back in.


  • by Caution needed 5/12/2014 11:36:40 AM

    I do wonder about the implications of students too heavily using computers in the classroom. I hope schools that routinely allow the use of these technologies in the classroom utilise software to ensure social media channels (and other sites which have no potential to be useful for anything related to an educational endeavour) are blocked.

  • by JoeCitizen 10/12/2014 8:39:13 AM

    It depends on how the student is wired. If they're easily distracted, they're always going to find themselves distracted by something in the classroom, even if laptops, etc weren't in the picture.

  • by Andrew 16/12/2014 10:10:56 AM

    I am old enough to remember being distracted looking out the window, passing notes along the back row or just doodling at the back of the exercise book. Students now have technology to pursue the distraction, but in itself the technology isn't the problem.
    Our digital and online life is changing the way we read and the pressure we place on ourselves to "multitask". Schooling focussed on one mode of transmission (teacher directed) don't fit into this model and modern students have less patience, seeking alternative information streams more readily.
    Schooling needs to change, but to blame technology for causing distraction is challenging the tool instead of the disease.