On laptops in the classrooms

I came across an interesting opinion by David Cole regarding the use of Internet connected laptops in the classrooms, during lectures.

study found that laptop use was significantly and negatively related to class performance

While I was reading the article, I kept nodding my head a lot.  Yes, if I was back in college and I could have an Internet connected laptop on my desk, I’d be even worse of a student than I was.  YouTube, forums, emails, Twitter, and a whole lot of other attention grabbers would not leave much for plain old college education.  At least in my case.  I know.

But then, I started thinking if that was true for other people I know.  And I couldn’t be so sure anymore.  A few guys I know literally can’t stay for too much long wihtout a computer and some sort of Internet connection.  It’s like food or oxygen – they just have to have it.  And when they have access to a computer, it’s often amazing to see them use it.  Lots of interesting, topic related stuff coming up.  Fact checking.  Exploring the topic deeper and wider.  With quotes and all.

And that got me into this idea of a new generation.   Younger people, who grew up online.  Web is in their blood.  A desktop computer as an ugly concept, and an offline computer as a useless box.  This kind of people.  I don’t think they would be much distracted.  In fact, quite the opposite – I think their grades would go up with better Internet connection and laptop-friendlier environment.

And that’s where I started worrying a little bit about the studies that were mentioned in the article.  These studies may be very accurate now.  And they are performed by bigger universities and colleges.  The results of these studies will take a few years of propagating into smaller colleges and universities.  And that’s where the problem will arise.  By that time, most new students will of the web native generation, but their alma maters will be choosing to disconnect them and ban their laptops.  Even though it probably won’t be too relative by then.

But then again, isn’t it like this most of the time?  I think it is.