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Using the Internet in class may hurt grades


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Technology has made its way into many classrooms, and not just with regard to the presentations professors deliver or digital exams students take. Today's college students use laptops and smartphones as part of their everyday learning experience, taking notes in Word documents, remotely working with fellow students or researching supplementary facts on the Internet. However, being online also brings potential distractions into the classroom, and that might pose a problem for students. 

With the Internet comes many distractions
Researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) recently completed a study focusing on the effect of using the Internet in the classroom. The study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, found that all students who used the Internet for non-academic purposes in class earned lower scores on tests.  

Some common online distractions include reading news items, sending emails or scrolling through sites like Facebook. Although some students may consider this to be multitasking instead of merely not paying attention, it could be affecting their awareness more than they realize.

"Students of all intellectual abilities should be responsible for not letting themselves be distracted by use of the Internet," said Susan Ravizza, associate professor of psychology at MSU and the lead investigator on the study. 

Writing may enhance learning
Ditching the laptops and cellphones in favor of pens and notebooks may also be a beneficial move for students. A separate study published in the journal Psychological Science discovered that individuals who took longhand notes demonstrated better retention of ideas. According to the research, writing notes allowed students to process and reflect on the information presented, whereas most people with laptops have a tendency to simple transcribe the lecture. 

"There was no difference for factual questions — students did equally well," Pam Mueller, co-author of the study, told Newsworks. "But on conceptual questions that required more understanding of what the material in the lecture was saying, the students who took longhand notes did significantly better." 

For students who are looking for ways to improve their grades maybe the best advice is to put away the electronics and invest in a notebook and a pen. 

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