Laptops not always best for learning

Laptops not always best for learning

I took the MTR home last Friday. Next to me sat a three-year-old child, flicking across the screen of an iPad as he read pages of a colourful picture book about dinosaurs. I could see myself sitting in the same seat 10 years ago, but with a thick paperback instead of an electronic screen.

Technology has come far over the past decade. We've moved from an era of large, bulky desktops to hand-held smartphones. Technology has also changed the way we learn. More and more schools in Hong Kong are integrating laptop learning into their curriculum. In some schools, students have to bring their own laptops to class.

Laptop learning in the classroom encourages students to be proactive, independent learners. The internet provides a wide range of information that students would miss out on if they read only textbooks or lecture materials. With computers, teachers can set project-based tasks, which enhance students' research, organisation and presentation skills. It also makes students technologically astute - an essential skill these days.

However, integrating laptop learning into the curriculum has its disadvantages. The main problem is that students are tempted to do things that are unrelated to the lesson, such as going on social networking sites or gaming. It is difficult for teachers to monitor this. In addition, online sites often contain misleading or incorrect information, whereas textbooks are written by professionals and contain specific information relevant to the exams students take. Online learning can also stop students from being inquisitive. With search engines, information can be found in seconds. This may limit students' learning and research.

The effectiveness of laptop learning varies among different types of students. Studies have also shown that laptop learning is better suited to students who absorb information quicker through verbal learning, while an interactive classroom environment may be better for others.

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