Do Students Really Need More Screen Time During The Academic Day?

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Laptops in the classroom_student on computer in class

Technology use in the classroom has changed drastically over the past twenty years.  Squeaky chalkboards and clunky overhead projectors have been replaced by Smartboards, tablets, and Google Classroom, all striving to find a place in 21st-century learning.  One-to-one student to device ratios are becoming all the rage across the country, with some schools rolling out plans before fully examining the advantages and setbacks of having these devices in the hands of their students. Do laptops really increase student engagement/learning in the classroom or are they just another distraction from the content of the lesson? Below are some pros and cons of allowing laptops in the classroom.

Pros:

1. Laptops create a more personalized learning experience for every student.

With said devices, students are able to interact with text and given material in a way that is best suited to their own personal learning style. Need to highlight text? Go ahead with your bad self! Are you not getting a concept just yet? Review it at your own pace. Laptops can create a unique experience for 25 students who are all working towards a common goal.

2. Laptops allow for immediate feedback.

Forms and a plethora of games allow a student to gain real-time feedback about their understanding of the content and about their progress. Gone are the days of waiting for the graded turnaround of an assignment. Students can immediately see their mistakes and work towards meeting learning objectives in a shorter amount of time.

3. Paperless work allows for greater organization (and a more eco-friendly environment)

Let’s be honest. We’ve all had that one student in our class whose binder is the place where crumbled up papers go to die. Laptops allow disorganized students to feel competent and capable of keeping track of upcoming dates, assignments, and projects. Gone are the days of reaching one’s hand into the abyss of a Case-It just to come up empty-handed. Everything is all in one place, making it super easy for a student to locate notes or a paper that he or she may be working on.

Laptops in classroom

The Cons:

1.The distractions. Oh, the distractions.

Putting a laptop in front of a growing adolescent is like handing students the keys to a car (without ever having driven) and saying “good luck!”. You are putting an immense amount of trust in the student to do the expected work and not check email, buy things on Amazon, or play Fortnite. There is a good chance that the student gets distracted, especially in our technology driven world where our students are used to dividing their attention on a variety of things.

2. You will, inevitably, run into technology problems.

Using technology is always a crapshoot. Someone doesn’t have a charger and their computer is dead. One laptop randomly decided to update in the middle of class. The Wi-Fi suddenly isn’t working. Unlike good old-fashioned pen and paper, you don’t quite know what to expect when dealing with a class full of laptops. And this can sometimes be time consuming.

3. Do students really need more screen time during the academic day?

According to Common Sense Media, teenagers spend an average of 9 hours a week in front of a screen. Using laptops would only add to this alarming statistic. Is the use of laptops during the school day beneficial enough to offset this con? Only you can decide!

Like most things in the world of education, there is no one size fits all. Only after carefully examining your classroom set-up, your objectives, and your goals, can you decide if allowing laptops in the classroom will enhance the learning experience for each and every one of your students.

Screen time_laptops in classroom

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Abigail Courter is a fifth year music teacher at a K-8 private school in California.  She has taught general music, band, music technology, and performing arts.

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