Computers are often seen as a tool to enhance and facilitate learning—but a new study finds using computers can decrease how much students actually take away from a lecture.
It’s not the computer per se that’s to blame, it’s the many temptations it offers—the internet, social media, live chat.
During the recent study, Canadian researchers asked students to take notes on their computers during a lecture—but also allowed them to do other things, such as surfing the web.
After the lecture, students were quizzed on the content. Those who used the computer to take notes did far worse than their peers.
Not only that, even students who merely sat close to the multitaskers did worse, said researcher Faria Sana from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
“You may not multitask, but if you are seated around somebody who is multitasking your learning is going to be impaired,” she said.
Educators should discuss the impact of computer use with their students and encourage rules for laptop use, Sana advised.
Staying focused takes practice, said Michael Baime, who heads the Penn Center for Mindfulness. It’s also important to recognize the temptation to tune out, said Baime, who spends his days teaching people to pay attention.
He recommends “getting into the habit of noticing that, and not going with that impulse. Saying, ‘OK, for these 45 minutes, I’m not going to do anything but this work.'”