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Internet use in class leads to lower test scores

This effect, of relatively lower grades, applies to the brightest students as well as to those in the middle of the scholastic achievement distribution. The research has come from Michigan State University. For the study, the researchers examined laptop use in an introductory psychology course. This revealed that the typical time spent browsing the web, for non-class-related purposes, was 37 minutes during a one hour lecture.

The types of non-class related activities, Psych Central reports, that students engaged in included time on social media, reading email, watching YouTube and shopping. With shopping, buying clothes was the main activity. All in all, typical student past-times. In all some 127 students were assessed.

With those who undertook the highest Internet use, the academic performance of the students suffered as measured by their final exam scores. The overall motivation of the students and their intelligence were insufficient to compensate for the lack of attention paid to the lecturer. Intelligence was measured by ACT (American College Testing) scores, a standardized test for high school achievement. Motivation to succeed in class was measured by an online survey, with the results interpreted by the researchers.

Discussing the outcomes further, Professor Susan Ravizza stated: “The detrimental relationship associated with non-academic internet use raises questions about the policy of encouraging students to bring their laptops to class when they are unnecessary for class use.”

A second observation of interest was that taking notes on a laptop is not as beneficial for learning as writing notes by hand. This again was shown up in student test scores. The overall findings have been published in the journal Psychological Science, see “Logged In and Zoned Out: How Laptop Internet Use Relates to Classroom Learning.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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