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The computer, which is regarded as the most significant invention of the last century, has grown to become a central component in modern life. As the use of computing devices has become prevalent in most areas of human life, the education sector has also been infringed upon. To enable their citizens to benefit from computers, many nations have demonstrated an increased interest and investment in computer technology in the education sector.
Computer manufacturers have come up with products that are designed to fulfill the academic needs of the students. To ensure that students can use computers for their daily learning, programmers have made applications that enhance the learning activities of students in various subjects, including mathematics, science, and geography. In addition to this, there have been significant advances in computing technology and a marked drop in their prices.
Cost considerations, which have for many years been the major hindrance to the widespread adoption of notebook laptops by many schools, have become nonexistent as the unit price of notebook laptops has decreased significantly. Due to these events, more schools have embraced laptops as personal learning tools for their decades over the last decade. Education institutes, governments, and parents have made a significant investment in notebook laptops.
In the US, many States have adopted the one-to-one laptop program, which is meant to provide one laptop to each student in middle school and high school. This program has led to the proliferation of laptops in the school setting. Schools all over Canada have also adopted computer use, and the number of students using notebook laptops is on the rise.
As most schools adopt computer technology, more students are carrying notebook laptops instead of traditional paper notebooks. This has led to the question of whether notebook laptops should replace school notebooks as the primary tool for student use in the classroom.
This paper will argue that school notebooks should be completely replaced by notebook laptops since laptops can effectively fulfill the role of paper notebooks and confer additional advantages to the students.
Notebook Laptops Efficiency in Note Taking
A major advantage offered by notebook laptops is that they improve the note taking the process of students. In all classroom environments, note taking is a critical activity that the students are required to engage in. Through taking notes, the students can record the information being provided by the teacher for future reference. The ability to take good notes and use them for revision purposes is directly related to the academic performance of the student.
Notebook laptops provide the student with the most effective way to not only take notes but also organize these notes in the most efficient manner. Technological advances have meant that students can use notebook laptops for basic activities such as note taking with little training. Unlike in the past, where notebook laptops were too complicated and unstable to be used by students, modern notebook laptops are highly portable and intuitive to use.
This has promoted the widespread adoption of laptops in schools. Students no longer have to carry the bulky paper notebooks to their various classes when they make use of laptops. Jing and Zhao (2008) state that by using application programs such as Microsoft Word and Notepad, students can take and also exploit the capabilities of these programs to organize and grammar check their work.
A study by Jing & Zhao (2008) revealed that 80% of students reported higher levels of the organization due to the use of laptops to take their notes (p.107). Due to the intrinsic organization and spell checking capabilities of computer programs, students are forced to be better organized and maintain notes with fewer errors. Laptops also offer great help to students who have poor handwriting.
By typing in standardized fonts, the students can maintain neat notes that they can read easily in the future. Research by Zheng, Warschauer, and Farkas (2013) demonstrates that notebook laptops assist students to become more organized (285). Research by these authors indicates that when students used laptops, they wrote more and were able to revise and edit their written material more.
As a result, the quality of writing done by the students was markedly improved when using laptops as opposed to using traditional paper notebooks. In addition to this, Zheng et al. (2013) reveal that notebook laptop usage “helped students increase their enthusiasm for writing” (p.285). This is a very important point because most students consider writing to be a tedious activity and are unmotivated to engage in it.
A tool that increases the enthusiasm for students to take notes is very valuable in the classroom setting. Note taking using laptops has the added advantage of making it easy for students to share or compare notes with their peers.
The electronic copies of the notes made by individual students can easily be copied by their classmates, making sharing easy. This is especially useful when a student wishes to catch up with class work when he/she was absent from a particular class.
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Positive Impact on Academic Outcomes
Another significant advantage of notebook laptops over traditional notebooks is that they foster greater academic productivity by the students. The increase in student productivity when using notebook laptops occurs in several ways. To begin with, studies indicate that laptop use results in greater student engagement in the learning process.
This engagement is promoted since students have a more positive perception of laptops compared to traditional notebooks. Maninger and Holden (2009) assert that students “understand the importance and potential effectiveness of using technology” (p.7). They, therefore, have a positive perception of notebook computers and are motivated to learn by using them.
This motivation is integral to positive academic outcomes since it leads to positive attributes such as curiosity and a desire to learn. Fried (2008) notes that the participation rate for students using laptops is higher than those using traditional notebooks (p.907). Some studies indicate that the motivation by students stems from a perception that competence in computer use is integral to attaining good employment opportunities in the future (p.7).
Student engagement is crucial for positive learning outcomes to be observed. It results in students paying greater attention to what is being taught, and this attentiveness increases the retention capability of the student. In addition to this, Lauricella and Kay (2010) report that students demonstrate higher satisfaction in the education process when they use laptops in school (p.152).
Student satisfaction when using laptops is also increased since most students perceive that this technology will be useful in their future careers. Students understand that the technical proficiency gained by using laptops will be needed in the real world environment. Many are therefore keen to learn the basic skills and become technologically proficient.
Research by Jing and Zhao (2008) reveals that use of notebook laptops increases the technology proficiency of students (112). In a study to access the technology proficiency of students, the researchers found out that while students demonstrated low technology competency at the beginning of their academic year, their competency had increased significantly by the end of the academic year.
This increase was attributed to the wide exposure to computing technology through their laptops. As students were provided with the opportunity to work on technology and solve technology related problems, they acquired knowledge on how to use the technology and therefore improved their competence level. Student performance is also enhanced since notebook laptops increase the ease with which students can engage in collaborative work.
Maninger and Holden (2009) reveal that laptops enable students to share files and engage in collaborative activities with students inside or outside the classroom (p.8). Collaboration is a desirable activity since it offers opportunities for students to participate in discussions and assist each other solve problems from their classes.
In addition to this, collaborative work prepares the students for the outside world where they will be expected to carry out collaborative work with their colleagues in the office environment.
The improved student efficacy encouraged by laptops is the most significant merits for educators and parents. For most countries, including the US and Canada, the primary objective of using laptops in class has been to improve academic achievements and increase the technological competence of students.
Notebook Laptops as a Source of Distraction
In spite of the significant merits of laptops, there is still opposition to the complete embrace of notebook laptops in place of school notebooks. Arguably, the most significant argument made against notebook laptops is that they would negatively affect the academic performance of students. A universal goal for all parents and educators is to encourage good academic performance from the students.
Notebook computers threaten to undermine these goals in various ways. Vascellaro (2006) documents that in many cases, students who had notebook laptops spent time sending instant messages to friends and engaged in social networking sites instead of engaging in academic activities. This inappropriate use of computers has detrimental outcomes to their academic success.
With the paper notebook, the student is unlikely to suffer from any distraction while in class. He/she is, therefore, more likely to pay attention to the material being presented in the immediate class. With notebook laptops, students are likely to engage in multitasking behavior. Lauricella and Kay (2010) acknowledge that students who use laptops in class are likely to engage in activities such as surfing the internet while the class is in progress.
In addition to this, the students using notebook laptops may be tempted to access material that is not directly related to their immediate class through their laptops. Another major concern by parents is that laptops might lead to time wastage by students as they use their notepads to visit inappropriate sites or play computer games.
This concern is not unfounded as Vascellaro (2006) documents that in Henrico County, over 200 students were suspended for using their notebook laptops to surf unacceptable websites. Such behavior poses a significant danger to students. There have been incidents of students being exposed to sex offenders in social networking sites. Exposure to pornographic sites through the laptops is also undesirable since it causes moral damage to the student.
Undoubtedly, the risk of distraction and inappropriate use of notebook computers by students is a significant concern. Fried (2008) reveals that the level of distractions posed by laptops might lead to significant frustration among educators (907). If proper care is not taken, the academic outcome of students is likely to suffer from uncontrolled computer use.
However, these issues can be addressed to ensure that students enjoy the benefits of laptops without being exposed to the negative aspects. Most schools place robust filters in their internal networks to ensure that students are only allowed to visit approved websites. These firewalls enable the network administrator to block access to websites that have inappropriate content.
In addition to this, students can also be stopped from accessing social networking websites or sites that provide games and other distracting content. In addition to this, parents and teachers can be more vigilant by closely monitoring the usage of laptops by the students.
They should frequently check the computer logs of the students to make sure that only appropriate content is accessed by the students. In some schools, teachers make use of monitoring software installed on the student’s notebook laptops to supervise activities by students. By using such measures, educators can ensure that students concentrate in class and avoid distracting themselves using their laptops.
This paper set out to argue that traditional school notebooks should be replaced by notebook laptops. It began by acknowledging that notebook laptop have become an integral tool for education in most schools all over the country. It then highlighted the major advantages of laptops over computers. To begin with, the paper demonstrated that laptops enhance the note taking the process of the students.
It also leads to a better organization as the students make use of the inbuilt organizational structure of the computer. This leads to a faster access to class notes from the students. The paper has also noted that having notes in electronic format makes it easy for students to share their notes, ensuring that each student has a copy of the relevant instructions given by the teacher.
The second major merit of notebooks is that they increase student academic performance. This is achieved by increasing the motivation level of students and increasing the desire to learn using computing technology. The paper has also noted some of the disadvantages that notebook laptops might have in schools. The danger of decreased productivity due to distractions is especially troublesome.
The paper acknowledges that students might use their laptops to engage in non-educational activities or even visit websites with objectionable material. This might result in harm for the students and lower academic performance. However, it has been shown that these problems can be controlled by imposing greater access restrictions on student laptops.
The teachers can also make use of monitoring software to keep track of the activities being carried out by the students while in class. Based on the arguments made in this paper, it can be authoritatively stated that schools should replace the traditional notebooks with notebook laptops for all students.
Such a move would ensure that students enjoy the many significant benefits that laptops bring to education. This would lead to the desired results of better educational outcomes for students, therefore increasing their chances of becoming successful individuals in their adult lives.
Fried, C.B. (2008). In-class laptop use and its effects on student learning. Computers & Education, 50(1), 906–914.
Jing, L., & Zhao, Y. (2008). One-to-one computing: what does it bring to schools? J. Educational computing research, 39(2), 97-122.
Lauricella, S. & Kay, R. (2010). Assessing laptop use in higher education classrooms: The Laptop Effectiveness Scale (LES). Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(2), 151-163.
Maninger, R.M. & Holden, M.E. (2009). Put the Textbooks Away: Preparation and Support for a Middle School One-To-One Lap top Initiative. American Secondary Education, 38(1), 5-33.
Vascellaro, J. E. (2006). Saying no to school laptops. Retrieved from: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB115698378733250090
Zheng, B., Warschauer, M., & Farkas, G. (2013). Digital writing and diversity: the effects of school laptop programs on literacy processes and outcomes. J. Educational Computing Research, 48(3) 267-299,