For better learning, "Lay down the laptop and pick up a pen," writes Dynarski

August 10, 2017

Susan Dynarski’s latest Brookings piece, “For better learning in college lectures, lay down the laptop and pick up a pen,” reviews evidence from multiple randomized trials to discern whether students who use computers in class outperform their peers. “A growing body of evidence,” she writes, “says ‘No.’”

Dynarski describes several studies--conducted in both laboratories and classrooms--all of which found that the use of laptops diminishes, rather than enhances, student performance.

“We can criticize the external validity of any of these studies,” she writes. “But the evidence-based strategy is not to therefore ignore the studies but to consider the specific reasons that their results would or would not extrapolate to other settings.”

Until the question is settled--through replication and new evidence--Dynarski herself will continue to ban electronics from her classrooms.

Susan Dynarski is a professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, a professor of education at the University of Michigan's School of Education, and a professor of economics at the University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. She is co-founder and co-director of the Ford School’s Education Policy Initiative, which engages in applied, policy-relevant research designed to improve educational achievement and outcomes.