Laptop or Spiral Notebook – Which is Better for a Student?

We are in the middle of the school year, and graduation is fast approaching. As high school graduates prepare for the next big step, college, there is one item that is sure to be in every student’s wish list: a good and quality laptop computer. A laptop is a necessity in a college student’s school life, especially in this digital world where everything is internet based. Students use the internet in almost anything they do.

Research, assignments, homework, exams, thesis, and not to mention their social media activities. It is considered by most people as a must-must by students, right alongside towels, laundry detergent, coffee pot, and ramen noodles. And according to most tech sites like TechClimax, computers and laptops are quickly gaining acceptance in this digital age.

Without a doubt, laptops can enhance every student’s college experience by making it easier for them to engage in online course materials, maximize searches, and improve communications with their professors, classmates, schoolmates, friends, and family. A lot of students are also bringing their laptops to class so they can take notes instead of writing in papers while looking at online lectures, searching the internet for clarifications about the lecture and chat with friends. Although it is helpful to some students, this practice turns out to be a big mistake.

Researchers at Michigan State University suggests that laptop and other electronic devices that students bring into the classroom like mobile phones do not enhance learning in the school. It would be better if students leave their electronic devices like laptops, iPads or mobile phones in their dorm rooms during class.

Although using these gadgets during class can create an illusion of enhanced engagement with the student’s course content, more often they engage more with social media like Facebook and Twitter, instant messaging apps, watching YouTube videos or participating in non-academic materials. These activities are self-inflicted distractions, and it comes at a cost. Students are more engaged in these activities than listening to their college professors. They are wasting at least one-third of their valuable classroom time, and it will affect their studies, and of course their grades.

To understand better how college students are using laptop computers during class, and how it will impact their learning process. Susan Ravizza, a researcher, and her colleagues took a simple survey and asked the students to login voluntarily to a proxy server at the start of their class, to better understand how students use the internet (including websites they are visiting).

(To know more about Susan Ravizza and her researches in behavioral psychology, visit

The students that participated in the study are required to log in at least of their 15 class periods. They may or may not use the internet once they logged in to the server. Susan Ravizza and her colleagues were able to track the student’s internet use, computer activities and their academic performance across the semester.

The researchers evaluated the time that the students use the internet, the sites they visited, and how many requests the servers are receiving every session. The researchers obtained the ACT scores or the measures of intelligence, the self-reported interests of every student, the final exam performance as well as the motivation.

With all the results, it leads to some relevant insights in regards to the use of laptop devices inside the classroom. First, students spend at least 30 to 40 minutes out of 100-minute class period using the internet to access nonacademic activities like social media, checking their emails, online shopping, reading news websites, chatting with friends and family, watching videos, or playing online and offline games.

The nonacademic use of the device was negatively associated with the student’s final exam scores. Students that usually get higher scores before the research tend to get lower exam scores after they use laptops. The most frequently visited sites are social media websites, and these sites, along with video streaming sites, proved to be causing the most distraction among students when it comes to academic outcomes.
(Click here to know more about the relationship between computer use and academics.)

Not only that, because of their frequent nonacademic internet use, students spend less than 5 minutes using the internet for educational purposes like reviewing class-related slides, looking at school syllabus or searching for research materials related to their lecture.

Regardless of the reasons, students are not experiencing the supposed to be benefits of internet use during class. They spend more time in their social and non-academic activities instead of spending time using the internet for a more productive academic stuff like research, supplemental readings or surfing the web for academically related contents.

These distractions appear to be counterproductive for students, that’s why there is a little upside in using laptop inside the classrooms. It is proven that multitasking can lessen people’s productivity. Perhaps it is time for every college student considering going back to good old-fashioned notebooks instead of using laptops, iPad or mobile phones for taking notes.

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