Why smart kids shouldn’t use laptops in class

There is nothing about shorthand in this article, but it does suggest that those students who go the no-tech route for their note-taking fair better in school.  Folks doing Notehand, take note!

Why smart kids shouldn’t use laptops in class


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5 comments Add yours
  1. Thanks for posting this. Although the difference between the laptop vs. the non-laptop group was statistically significant, it is a modest difference.

  2. Statistically significant = the statistician is confident there is a difference, but it might be slight. If you measure every single subject, and find a 1% difference, that is statistically significant.

    Everyone else expects it to mean something more practical.

    Both my kids have laptops because their handwriting is horrible. My son's brain shuts down if he has to write something other than math. My daughter can barely read her own handwriting. We did occupational therapy with my son, and the teachers worked with both of them. With the laptops, though, they reach their full potential.

    I wonder how they'd do if they could actually write their lecture notes? I much prefer writing to typing for note-taking, brain storming and time-management, and typing if it needs to be organized.

  3. Interesting article! What an endorsement for note-taking on paper!

    As for the "1.7 percentage-point" effect size, we should remember that this is in grade points, not regular percentage-points. That's half of a "half grade"! (Huh, so-called "half-grades" like B-, B, and B+ are actually thirds of a full grade… I just realized this – what a misnomer!)

    So if they do grades the way they did for me in college back in 2006, and this effect were applied to a random student, there would be a 50% chance that it would bump her grade up to the next half-grade. It might take many hours of studying to have the same effect!

    To look at it another way, we can presume the normal distribution and use the 0.2-standard-deviation effect size the article mentions to estimate a percentile change at the median. (image link to explain: https://www.dropbox.com/s/wpycabmf3hahwoa/StdDevToPercentiles.png?dl=0 )

    So the effect size at the median is actually 8 percentile points! So if a student would have gotten a median grade, but then got hit with this laptop effect, they might move from the 50th percentile, to the lower-58th percentile! (Percentile effect sizes are lower if you start out further away from the median, but that shows that it's a reasonably big effect.)

    CricketB, I know an OT who has used shorthand as a modality with kids having trouble with handwriting! I think she used Teeline or something…

    1. The actual study is here, and the authors say in the conclusions (page 28) that it is a 1.7 point decrease out of a total of 100, so it is regular percentage.

  4. CricketB, but I think your kids have a lot of good company. It seems this trend of handwriting becoming supplanted by typing is a global trend. I would often ask friends for help on how to write particular characters while practicing my Chinese handwriting in Taiwan recently. I was surprised at how often they were unable to confidently write even characters common enough to find in a newspaper!! (Of course, my handwriting is far worse still, so I'm a fine example of the trend as well!) 😀

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