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New Study Shows Banning Laptops in Recitation Leads Students To Zone Out Instead of Surfing the Web


Photo from Pixabay / CC0

A recent study conducted at Cornell University found that students who are prohibited from using their laptops during recitation sessions are 75% more likely to zone out rather than surfing the web. In contrast to the previous assumption, banning laptops in recitations does not encourage students to pay more attention, but does encourage what researchers are formally calling “mind wandering.” We spoke with one of the research assistants on the project about this new term.

“Mind wandering describes the activity of thinking, so to speak, about random things going on in one’s life. Most frequently, mind wandering leads people to daydream about delusions of grandeur. Now, we haven’t concluded the second part of our study, but the preliminary results seem to indicate that this mind wandering may be causing a significant increase in ego.

The data produced from the study thus far is rather astounding. By comparing two equivalent recitations for a class at Cornell University, one with laptops allowed (A) and one with laptops prohibited (P), researchers were able to observe the direct results of each policy. They found that students in Recitation P were more likely to describe themselves as “baller at this class” and “probably the smartest person I know,” while students in Recitation A were more likely to answer questions regarding the subject material correctly.

“The results are very clear in indicating a causal relationship between the laptop policy, perceived understanding of the material, and actual understanding of the material,” one of the head researchers told us.

Though the study has not be published in scientific journals as of yet, the implications for the education world can’t be understated. Experts at Pennsylvania State University, Cornell’s rival, have already begun their own study looking into the long term effects of various laptop policies.