Monday, July 21, 2014

Making Laptops a Valuable Teaching Tool

Today's guest blogger is Maria Rodriguez, an SNL student. 



One can find much debate when discussing laptops and their use in the classroom. Some students I have talked to believe laptops are needed in class, and others think they are just a distraction. However, Benedict Carey, in “Frequent Tests Can Enhance College Learning, Study Finds,” thinks laptops can be used as a teaching tool to benefit students.  

In his article, Carey mentions Professors James W. Pennebaker and Samuel D. Gosling, two psychology professors at the University of Texas who conducted an experiment that consisted of asking 901 students to bring their laptops to class so they could take a short and personalized online quiz before class began. Experts believe this approach can help prevent students from failing class, especially students from low-income households, according to Carey.

Dr. Gosling seems to agree with him. According to Dr. Gosling, students with low-income backgrounds who also come from “poor-quality” schools need to be quizzed regularly because too often these students fail the first and second midterms, and this happens, he adds, because they once “were always smartest in class,” so when they don’t pass their first midterm they believe it was a mistake, Dr. Gosling says. He also believes once these students fail their second midterm, chances to pass the class are lost. Therefore, by quizzing them regularly students not only excel in class but also pass the class. In my opinion this experiment shows measurable outcomes. Students’ class attendance increased by 30 percent. Class scores went up 10 percent, and total high grades had noticeable growth. Better yet, students from lower-income households didn’t fail the class, and their grades showed the most improvement.

After learning the results of this experiment, one can say that computers used in the classroom can “act as an aid to teaching.” While students might not like the idea of taking quizzes at the beginning of each class, I would say that the advantage of these quizzes is practice that yields a results. For example, regular quizzing is already being practiced by Community Colleges of Chicago. As a former student of Truman College, I had a few professors who gave our class regular quizzes. Therefore, we knew to be prepared for the following class. Though their quizzes were not personalized as Pennebaker and Gosling’s, this regular testing helped me to retain more information, and as an adult learner it forced me to form good study habits and to develop better study routines. I learned to use collected quizzes as study guides and lessen the stress.

So, while quizzes can be given without the use of computers, I think the use of them (especially the students’ own laptops) cuts any strain between the professor and the student. Students don’t like to be told what to do, yet professors don’t want to waste precious time telling adults what to do. In addition, the use of this technology in the classroom helps preserve the environment and saves the school money on paper, ink, and electricity.  


Work Cited
Carey, Benedict. “Frequent Test Can Enhance College Learning, Study Finds.” New York Times. 20 Nov. 2013. Web. 21 June 2013.

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