Laptops in class: learning tool or distraction?

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.