It’s the start of a new semester, and students are flooded with media from laptops, smartphones and tablets. However, studies have shown that ditching this technology for a pen and paper might actually be more effective for students’ learning.
Multitasking with technology has been proven to be ineffective both in and out of the classroom.
Researchers Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer found that taking notes by hand facilitates more cognitive processes that allow students’ brains to become more engaged and understand the information better, according to Scientific American.
BYU social work professor Cory Dennis agreed that multitasking is significantly less effective. “You generally work better when you’re focused on one thing,” he said.
Multitasking is problematic because of the effect it has on students’ academic performance. A Stanford study found that students who multitasked had trouble organizing their thoughts because they were trying to concentrate on so many things at once.
An experiment from the Research in Higher Education Journal consisting of 62 students in an accounting class tested the multitasking phenomenon. Half of the students were instructed to text during the lecture, while the other half did not. The students took a quiz after the lecture, and the quiz scores of the students who weren’t texting were noticeably higher.
Social work professor Kevin Shafer discussed the problem of laptops. He explained that it is easier to get away with having a laptop out in class than a phone, so laptops allow students to more easily access social media. He went on to say that it doesn’t bother him if students do that.
“They can make their own choices,” Shafer said. “But when they’re doing that they’re shortchanging themselves and the education they could be receiving.”
Researchers Wade C. Jacobsen and Renata Forste of BYU conducted a study that proved that students are using electronic devices more often than not. The study, which used time diaries to track electronics usage, showed that multitasking was problematic because students were using electronics as a way to fill their free time, instead of studying or participating in other activities.
BYU junior Brennan Moritz said she supports multitasking.
“Sometimes I need to be listening to music in order to focus,” Moritz said.
On the contrary, BYU student Garrett Christensen likes to focus on one thing at a time.
“When I’m not multitasking there’s no distractions and I’m capable of performing better academically,” Christensen said.
Shafer explained that multitasking was a problem even before the rise of technology.
“The temptation is probably higher when you’re on a laptop versus a notebook, but when I was in school the laptops weren’t widely used in classroom settings,” Shafer said. “But we all sort of doodled on our notebook.”
The researchers agreed that every student has a different way of learning and while some might find multitasking effective, it’s not for everyone.
“I honestly believe that there are certain people out there that are totally capable of multitasking,” Shafer said. “I think most of us probably overestimate how good we are at it though.”
Dennis concluded that personal preference is key to students comprehending information in their own way.
“If I know they’re not taking notes I’ll probably not let them use their laptop, but I usually let them do what they want, because everyone learns differently,” Dennis said. “I prefer pen and paper.”