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0 Points

Laptops in Class

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 1/16/2015 Category: Education
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,826 times Debate No: 68441
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (38)
Votes (2)





I am auditing a class over the winter break, and I've noticed that the professor prohibits the use of laptops in class. When asked why, he cited their potential for distraction. I am interested in having a debate on this topic, since I have also heard educators laud the things that laptops can enable them to do with students. I think this should be an enlightening discourse.

There is a 2,000 ELO minimum needed to vote on this debate. You must have completed at least 1 debate to accept this challenge. You will have 8,000 characters to make your case.

Full Topic

On balance, the regular use of personal* laptops in school or college is beneficial for the student.

(*by "personal" I am referring to laptops owned by the student and to laptops provided to particular students for their continuous use while at school; I am not referring to laptops controlled primarily by the school, and used only when requisitioned by a teacher)


1. No forfeits
2. Any citations or foot/endnotes must be provided in the text of the debate
3. No new arguments in the final round; Pro must go first
4. Maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere
5. No trolling
6. No semantics, though debaters are allowed debate what constitutes a "benefit" to the student
7. My opponent waives his/her right to add definitions
8. Violation of any of these rules or of any of the R1 set-up merits a loss


R1. Pro's Constructive Case
R2. Con's Constructive Case, Pro rebuts Con's Case
R3. Con rebuts Pro's Case, Pro defends Pro's Case and Crystallizes
R4. Con defends Con's Case and Crystallizes, Pro waives

Thanks... advance to whomever acceepts; I am sure will be an intriguing and fun debate.


Greetings bsh1!

I am sure this will be intriguing and fun too! I think laptops are really important to our future in education, so this is a topic that I'm personally really interested in. Without further ado, I give you, the laptop!!

Portable College Education

Our system of education is being revolutionized. KhanAcademy shows us that education doesn't have to be stuck in classrooms. Anyone with internet can go online and learn the things that they teach you in school and in college like math and science. We don't have to spend $12000 dollars a year to get educated anymore. We can learn at our own pace and we don't have to come out with $30,000 debt for a degree that we needed to take 3-4 years to earn. In fact, Ivy League colleges are embracing online education (1)! Poorer student like me can get extra college credits for practically nothing!! A laptop would make my education literally portable and easier to access. I could look up data or read course material almost instantly wherever there's internet, any time I want!
Our education can literally be just the cost of a laptop. How awesome is that!

Instant Data Access!!

Imagine that you're sitting in a big auditorium with a teacher lecturing at the front about something and he gets to some phrase or point that you're not sure about. With a laptop, you could easily look it up!

Efficient use of Time

Instead of having to lumber down to some local place to use some local PC or instead of being stuck at home learning, a laptop gives you a portable text storage that you can take anywhere with you. I have a chromebook that I can take out, open up some pdf textbook, and even if I have no internet, which is most of the time, I can be doing something productive! During lunch or break at school or during free periods in class, I can take out my laptop and not be wasting my time staring at some TV screen while one of my teachers play a movie or something. This also applies if you already know the school material that a class is teaching to you. Simply, instead of wasting time with redundant knowledge, you could take out your laptop and do anything else!! I mean, if you really need to do something leisurely, at least get it over with when you're not really using your time for anything useful anyway.

Efficient use of Space

Imagine carrying a backpack full of notebooks for all of your courses with textbooks and binders and sheets of paper. Now imagine instead that you had a laptop in there instead. That's right! A laptop can be used as your notebooks and textbooks combined! Open notepad or some other word editor and you can instantly start to take notes on some lecture or video. Store it into a file under your course section and literally don't even worry about losing or leaving your stuff somewhere. Instead of having to think about taking care of a bunch of items, you have one item: your laptop!
And if you want to go back to find some specific material from your notes, you just have to perform a simple search with some key words and you immediately find what you're looking for. That's way more convenient than flipping through pages of notes, notebooks or textbooks.

Saves trees

This is a good side effect of abandoning paper text and note-taking. You're no longer using paper and pencil, wood and lead, to do things. You're indirectly saving trees!

The laptop is an amazing little information storage and text editor that can store massive amounts of information. And it's super portable!!!


One of the things people complain about is that the laptop can be distracting, but think about this: how many students actually waste their time looking stuff up during class? and then how badly does that affect students? The University of Virginia did a test 45 minute meteorology lecture where they had students come in with laptops and look through 12 specific things online like the news during the lecture to simulate what bored students would look up during class. The students told to look things up had worse comprehension scores than the students who didn't. Now 12 things is a lot, and the article kind of expressed doubt that students would even look up 12 things. But these 12 things took only 15 minutes to look through. So based on this experiment, if students look up 12 things in a class, they'd be multitasking only 1/3 of the time.
So through this experiment, if you're taking a class on something you don't know about and you multitask, you're going to score about 10% less on an end of lecture test (60% vs. 50%). Not that bad especially since the students were forced to be distracted. The experiment forces students to waste time, assuming students use their laptops for distraction from the start.
I'm sure that in a lecture, college students, who take debt or pay a lot of money every year just to learn from those lectures they go to, will use their laptops efficiently and educationally.

Imagine this is a lecture on things you've already learned thoroughly on your own time. Wouldn't you literally be wasting 45 minutes in class learning absolutely nothing? Wouldn't it then be better to have your laptop there?
If you don't know the material, the laptop can help you to look things up. The classroom doesn't even need to provide internet to keep students from getting distracted, and the laptop would just be better versions of note and text books.

To the Future!!
Do we even need classrooms in the first place? What if schools are held online? We already have entire courses online. Investing in students' laptops means we no longer need to provide for transportation and facilities and things like that. Total taxpayer money to maintain K-12 schools number $536 billion dollars in 2004-2005(3). Think about how much we'd save if everyone simply connected and studied online? We are moving to a world where education is becoming more digitized, and the laptop is an important part of this future.

Laptops are an economy of time, space and money.
Laptops complement the revolution of technology in education.


What do you think?
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks to Alyssa for accepting this debate! I have seen a few of her debates, and I think that this will be a fun exchange. As this round his just for constructive cases, I will reserve my rebuttals for next round.


C1: Laptops distract students in Class

In "a landmark Cornell University study from 2003...half of a class was allowed unfettered access to their computers during a lecture while the other half was asked to keep their laptops closed. The experiment showed that, regardless of the kind or duration of the computer use, the disconnected students performed better on a post-lecture quiz. The message of the study aligns pretty well with the evidence that multitasking degrades task performance across the board." [1]

"The orientation and visual nature of laptops, along with pop-ups, instant messages, movement and lighting of text, and even things like low-battery warnings, make laptops inherently distracting...Inevitably, when attention is divided and attentional demands exceed capacities, task performance suffers...Attentional shifts and cognitive overload can prevent information from being adequately processed and can interfere with learning. Moreover, although attention is often controlled voluntarily, external events and visual stimulation can result in involuntary shifts of attention. Recent research on cognitive interference...has shown that new information, such as a pop-up messages, appearing while a subject are performing a primary task slows performance speed and increases errors. Because of the vertical orientation of laptops, they also pose more of a distraction to fellow students than traditional notebooks...Thus, the cognitive interference posed by laptops could spread from users to those seated nearby." [3]

"Students admit to spending considerable time during lectures using their laptops for things other than taking notes. More importantly, the use of laptops was negatively related to several measures of learning. The pattern of the correlations suggests that laptop use interfered with students’ abilities to pay attention to and understand the lecture material, which in turn resulted in lower test scores. The results of the regression analysis clearly show that success in the class was negatively related to the level of laptop use...ACT scores, HSR, and attendance should act as proxy measures for variables such as academic aptitude, preparation, and conscientiousness. After controlling for these variables, laptop use was still negatively related to academic success." [3]

"The effects of multitasking in the classroom were investigated in students in an upper level Communications course. Two groups of students heard the same exact lecture and tested immediately following the lecture. One group of students was allowed to use their laptops to engage in browsing, search, and/or social computing behaviors during the lecture. Students in the second condition were asked to keep their laptops closed for the duration of the lecture. Students in the open laptop condition suffered decrements on traditional measures of memory for lecture content. A second experiment replicated the results of the first. " [4]

"MSU researchers found the more students used the Internet for non-academic purposes -- like reading the news and checking email and Facebook -- the lower their exam scores were. Not only that, but learners in-view of people using laptops for non-academic reasons also had reduced comprehension of lecture material, the study found." [5]

"2006 study of 83 undergraduate psychology students suggested that having laptops in class distracts both the students who use them and their classmates." [6]

C2: Learning and Note-taking with Laptops is More Shallow than Without

"Recent Princeton University and University of California studies took this into account while investigating the differences between note-taking on a laptop and note-taking by hand. While more words were recorded, with more precision, by laptop typists, more ended up being less: regardless of whether a quiz on the material immediately followed the lecture or took place after a week, the pen-and-paper students performed better. The act of typing effectively turns the note-taker into a transcription zombie, while the imperfect recordings of the pencil-pusher reflect and excite a process of integration, creating more textured and effective modes of recall." [1]

"Research on learning has consistently and overwhelmingly demonstrated that even the proper use of laptops does not further student learning, but actually distracts students and lessens student engagement. While students using laptops who focus exclusively on class may take more extensive notes, the ability to consult such extensive notes does not compensate for students’ lessened classroom participation as they devote more attention to the taking of those notes. Students using not absorb as much of the material in class, nor do they engage in classroom exchanges as frequently, thus depriving the rest of the class of their potential contribution. Other research shows that when students use electronic devices while studying, their learning and understanding is 'shallow' rather than deep and that they are less likely to do well on tests and assignments. Finally, research has shown that the process of writing longhand is superior for creating memory than typing." [2]

One professor observed: "I've even had some students who type notes and use a digital voice recorder to make sure they don’t miss a word. While this flatters the professorial ego, it risks ruining the whole point of the lecture format. Since we can type faster than we write, this completist exercise in documenting lectures simply becomes a mindless form of data acquisition. The essential skill of discernment, of determining what is important and what is not, gets lost in a world of students turned secretaries, dutifully taking dictation...I've now gone on to ban laptops in several courses. And the result? Many students are relieved. Instead of burying their heads in their screens, they ask more big-picture questions. To be sure, at the beginning of each term, some complain...I tell them that...[i]n a world of data overload, their job as students is to learn how to determine what is important." [7]


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Thus, because laptops (b) distract students and (b) produce a less meaningful and in-depth learning experience, I negate. I turn the floor over to Pro...


Thank you bsh1!


Bsh1 has us consider two things. First is that laptops are a distraction to students and have been shown to cause students to perform worse than those who did not use laptops. Second is that laptops make for shallow learning. Bsh1 then alludes to studies that claim that even with laptop note-takers using the laptop only for note-taking, they still perform worse than students who take notes of paper-pencil note-takers. At least, that's what the article he quotes from says.

Counter C1
The study that bsh1 has us consider controls for half the class to be allowed to use laptops with the other half not being permitted laptop usage. The study shows that students who use laptops are prone to multi-tasking and concludes that they perform worse. First of all, if the classroom just had no internet connection, multi-tasking wouldn't really be a problem. Second, the measure used to test performance is based on immediate post-lecture tests. That doesn't resemble the real model of education at all. Tests are usually administered weeks, even months if we consider college midterms and finals, after material is presented to a class. The study I cited earlier showed that laptop users who look up things perform worse than people who don't use laptops. The test score of those who use laptops is about 50% and the test scores of those who don't use laptops is 60% based on immediate post-lecture tests. Ok, so the people who used laptops performed bad, but the people who didn't use laptops didn't perform much better. 60% is pretty much a failing grade, a D--. Real students don't take tests immediately after every lecture, and they usually have at least some days to look through their notes to better understand the material. They do homework, exercises and everything in between lectures.
The study that bsh1 uses does not account for any of this. It doesn't simulate real education at all so it can't be used to negate the resolution.
It also ignores an actual controlled study where students actually don't use laptops for distractions. See, everything has a transition period. The current generation were introduced to laptops as means of distraction in the first place and that's why it is resorted to as a distraction. We didn't use to wear clothes for social purposes, but we've come to normalize clothes as needed not for practical reasons but for social reasons. Same with the laptop. We can ween off the wasteful use mindset, and as we get into further generations, we'll eventually get to a point where laptops or whatever technology we use will be second nature. Then the problem would not be in laptops but in people. If someone is in a lecture and doesn't want to pay attention, it doesn't matter if that someone has a laptop or not, see?

Counter C2
So the short term studies used by Bsh1 in his first point aren't good, but Bsh1's second point starts to account for the long term effects. The articles he quotes from says: "by laptop typists, more ended up being less: regardless of whether a quiz on the material immediately followed the lecture or took place after a week, the pen-and-paper students performed better"
I looked into the article that he got this from ( since this point is pretty important. What I found was that it got its claim that laptops are bad note-taking devices for long term use from this study titled, The Pen is Mightier that the Keyboard(1). Let me quote from this study:
"We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning"
The stuy complains about verbatim note-taking and admits that bad effects happen necessarily because of verbatim note-taking, which is easier with laptops and doesn't really have to do with the laptops themselves. Verbatim notetaking can be done with long-hand notetaking too, and the study admits to it:
"Because the detrimental effects of laptop note taking
appear to be due to verbatim transcription, perhaps
instructing students not to take verbatim notes could ameliorate
the problem. Study 2 aimed to replicate the findings
of Study 1"(1)
The problem is that both study 1 and study 2 tested the students shortly after the lectures given. They had the students do 30 minutes of tasks and then take tests based almost entirely on recall with longhanders scoring better than laptoppers. Scoring better and scoring well are not the same thing. This is the same problem as bsh1's first point and does not simulate real-world education. Note-takers did not get a chance to review their notes or to do exercises or homework or anything. It is shown that studying course material is really important to scoring well in anything academic(2) and that these tests don't account for that. The study really is inconclusive.
Study 3 of bsh's source tries to account for the effect of studying, allowing the students controlled to study only 10 minutes to review their notes a week after the dummy lecture. Once again, the study does not account for real world studying. Cornell suggests that students study 4-6hrs every afternoon(3). It is suggested that students study 2 hrs per hour in class(4). 10 minutes is less than 10% of 2 hours. Plus the Study 3 stops accounting for verbatim note-taking as it does for study 2 and the overlap of verbatim note-taking shows that verbatim-note takers, both longhand writers and typers, perform worse when allowed 10 minutes of studying. In fact, Study 3 actually showed that the laptop people who studied the 10 minutes of notes actually performed worse than the laptop people who did not study(1) under table 2 of Study 3. That's not a surprise since Study 3 doesn't simulate or account for real studying. None of the studies are really conducive to bsh1's case.
The article that he cites that cited these studies literally made up its own summary of the studies. There is evidence that verbatim-notetaking negatively affects performance, but there is no evidence that really suggests that laptop note-taking is really the problem.

Weighed with the growing benefits and potential of laptops in the modern world, I don't think any of these mild inconclusive problems are problematic at all.


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Over to Con!
Debate Round No. 2


Profuse thanks again to Alyssa! At this time, I will--as per the structure laid out in the OP--rebut Pro's opening arguments.

C1. Portable College Education

I have two arguments against this contention:

(1) Topicality. The topic of this debate is about the use of laptops in schools or colleges, it is not about the use of laptops as schools or colleges. Now, while on the face of it, this may seem like quibbling, there is a significant difference in using a laptop as a classroom or study aid and in using the laptop as the classroom itself. I am therefore concerned about the topicality of this whole argument, or, at least, of parts of this argument.

(2) Effectiveness. Online courses are, not surprisingly, not nearly as effective as real-life classes. This mirrors the arguments I have been making regarding how note-taking on laptops isn't as effective as longhand note-taking and so on. Several sources and arguments corroborate the claim that online courses just aren't doing students as much good.

(2a) Student success and matriculation rates in online courses are less than in real-life courses

"[I]n 2012, 60.4 percent of students enrolled in online courses completed them with a passing grade--10 percentage points lower than the success rate of 70.6 percent in traditional courses." [1]

"Preliminary data on UT-Austin’s two other fall semester MOOCs [(massive open online courses)] show completion rates ranging from about 1 percent to 3 percent. These rates aren't unusual...[T]he University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education presented a study on 16 MOOCs offered by the University of Pennsylvania through a company called Coursera. They found that completion rates averaged at around 4 percent." [2]

"The research has shown over and over again that community college students who enroll in online courses are significantly more likely to fail or withdraw than those in traditional classes, which means that they spend hard-earned tuition dollars and get nothing in return. Worse still, low-performing students who may be just barely hanging on in traditional classes tend to fall even further behind in online courses." [3]

"A five-year study, issued in 2011, tracked 51,000 students enrolled in Washington State community and technical colleges. It found that those who took higher proportions of online courses were less likely to earn degrees or transfer to four-year colleges." [3]

(2b) For many students, online courses are less effective teaching methods

"First, student attrition rates--around 90 percent for some huge online courses--appear to be a problem even in small-scale online courses when compared with traditional face-to-face classes. Second, courses delivered solely online may be fine for highly skilled, highly motivated people, but they are inappropriate for struggling students who make up a significant portion of college enrollment and who need close contact with instructors to succeed...Lacking confidence as well as competence, these students need engagement with their teachers to feel comfortable and to succeed. What they often get online is estrangement from the instructor who rarely can get to know them directly. " [3]

(2c) Online courses enlarge racial disparities in education

"Researchers also found that achievement gaps are exacerbated in the online world. For example, the gap between white and African American students in traditional classes was 12.9 percentage points; that widens to 17.5 points in online courses." [1]

C2: Instant Data Access

Imagine you're sitting in class, and your teacher mentions topic X. You look it up. You start reading the online article, and five or ten minutes later you realize you got so absorbed in the article that you missed a portion of the lecture. Instant data access may sound like a boon, but in fact it is merely one more potential distractor in the classroom. Why not wait to look up a topic later in the library? Why does data access need to be "instant," when the very fact that it is instantaneous is problematic?

C3: Efficient Use of Time

Again, I have three quick points to raise by way of objection:

(1) Lack of Evidence. My opponent makes the assertion that laptops can be a great way of maximizing efficient use of time. Perhaps that's true when they are used wisely, but Pro offers us no evidence that this is how they're used. For instance, instead of looking at school material on my laptop, I might just spend that time perusing through facebook, twitter, instagram, etc. Without any empirical data, Pro cannot make the claim that laptops actually, and on balance, maximize students productive use of time. Certainly, the evidence I've presented about distractability speaks to the contrary.

(2) Weight. Even if you buy Pro's claims that laptops help students use time efficiently, there are several reasons why you should weigh my evidence on distraction and information retention/comprehension more heavily:

(2a) "Measurability." My arguments are quantified; by this I mean I am citing measurable, statistical impacts to my claims. We should always prefer claims that are clear and measurable to claims whose overall impacts are indeterminate and vague. After all, we know what harms will transpire if we affirm, but we can only speculate at the benefits.

(2b) Severity. My impacts are more severe that Pro's impacts. Efficient use of time may reap some benefits, but if those benefits aren't paying off on tests (as shown by my arguments) then those benefits clear aren't outweighing the harms.

(3) Permutation. We can use desktops or library computers to help us organize and store our files and so forth. Surely, even if we have to walk back to our dorms or to the library to use these machines, they still save time on average by automating, organizing, and storing things, etc., just like laptops do. So, while these might not save as much time as laptops, they would still save some time. Therefore, why bother having laptops when they have clear harms (e.g. they increase distraction rates in the classroom), and when a large chunk of their benefits could be reaped without them?

C4: Efficient use of Space

Cross-apply all of the attacks I made against Pro's C3 here, as they all fit.

C5: Saving Trees

I have two issues with this contention:

(1) Topicality. Recall, the resolution asks whether laptop use is "beneficial for the student." This contention doesn't elucidate any benefit for the student, but rather talks about a benefit to the environment; thus, it's not topical.

(2) Permutation. Desktops can also minimize the harms to the environment while not incurring the same harms as laptops.

C6: Distraction

Unfortunately, I cannot access the source for this study (404 error). I would ask Pro to please provide it in the comments, and I promise to rebut it next round. I would prefer to discuss distraction next round anyway, as that is where the bulk of those arguments are concentrated.

But, from what I can ascertain just from what was posted, the study only surveyed/pertained to one class. Moreover, it confirmed that there was a distraction factor when students "multitasked." To quote Pro directly: "you're taking a class on something you don't know about and you multitask, you're going to score about 10% less on an end of lecture test." So, really, this only it reinforces my argument.

C7: To the Future

Ultimately, we might save money switching to online classes, but, as evidence by my earlier studies/sources, online classrooms are less effective than traditional classrooms. It is not, it seems to me, beneficial to the student to exchange quality for cost savings, esp. when we can find other ways to cut costs besides going digital.


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Nice one!

C1. Portable College Education

Topicality: If schools and colleges have an online academia, then its nonsense for these schools and colleges to reject students from connecting through laptops. This brings us to bsh1's permutation, but I will talk about that later.
Effectiveness: Ok, so there's a 10% average difference in dropout rate from students, but the difference is, actually that many of the online courses are free. Schools like Harvard and Yale offer open courses for no credit.(2)(3) The passage that bsh1 quotes on UPenn is an example of students not completing open courses, but think about this: many of these cited students are paying nothing to the schools. They don't face the loss or consequences of failing. This also goes back to topicality. Online courses can only be accessed from online through a computer. The school should not have a say in what type of computer is used, least of all a laptop.

I want to talk more about this. So some of bsh1's articles talk about how students fall behind because they aren't motivated, but what about the motivated students? What about the other 60.4% who actually pass or even the ones who do well? Personally I don't think a blanket laptop restriction because of a 10.2% higher rate of failing is fair to those not in this 10.2% minority.

C2. Instant Data Access

Instant Data Access is good because its much more efficient. OK, so an article might distract a student, but I don't think that it's that big a deal. Is that potentiality worrisome enough to make make a blanket rejection of laptop usage? Plus the problem here would be internet access and not the laptops themselves. Lots of schools don't have public wifi. Instant data access can be limited to stuff stored locally on the student computer like textbooks and note files. Why bother going to a library when your research needs are on the computer? Saves a lot of time no?

C3. Efficient Use of Time

Lack of evidence: Although I don't have studies or quotes for these, I can still appeal to common sense. I don't need to cite a source to claim that a circle is round. It's just common sense. Common sense says that quicker access means less time wasted doing the perfunctory information retrieval like going to the library and flipping through books for only a couple pieces of information.

Weight: bsh1 is saying that his studies have more weight. I'll talk about this later, but to use bad studies is to use half the evidence to prove a full case. Imagine a crime scene where a woman was robbed in her home, and the investigators found a hat that belonged to her neighbor right in her backyard. The investigators can't know just from that hat that the neighbor is guilty. That's silly! They'd have to look for more evidence like footprints and cross examine the neighbor with a trained detective-psychologist before they can determine if the neighbor was the robber. They might even have to do DNA checks on the hat. The lone hat doesn't mean anything by itself. The evidence is inconclusive without further investigations. Likewise, bsh1's studies aren't removetly conducive to his arguments.

Severity: bsh1's impacts are quantified but lack real conclusive correlation. His sources point out only a 10.2% difference between laptop users and non-laptop users and ignores lots of factors. That 10.2% is a minority. The benefits reaped by academic laptop users are much greater.

Permutation: The difference between a laptop and a desktop is that the laptop is portable but the desktop is not. That's a huge difference. Schools don't have to disallow desktops. Students just won't bother carrying them around. Portability means efficient access. Unless you want to be confined to one area to enjoy the virtual benefits of computer access, the laptops are a much better alternative as word-processing, information-gathering machines.

C4. Efficient Use of Space

Cross-Applied Lack of Evidence: Common sense says that a laptop weighs less than 6 textbooks each with an average weight of 3.5 pounds. Common sense also says that laptops are smaller than 6 textbooks and take up much less space than textbooks, pens, papers, folders, binders, and notebooks combined. All I have in my little backpack when I go out is a laptop and a laptop charger. I see some guys carrying gigantic backpacks with heavy books and I feel sorry for them, but their macho ego is not my problem!

C5. Saving Trees?

Topicality: Schools should have the public interest at heart. The environment is a public interest. Schools should care about things that affect the environment, especially things they have an impact over. "[T]he US spends more than $7 billion annually on traditional textbooks”(3). Think about how many trees they're cutting down to make $7billion worth of textbooks every year? Etext and etext access through things like laptops is something schools should move toward having.

Permutation: Common sense says that most desktops weigh about as much as 6 textbooks and actually take up more space. Desktops aren't as portable or they'd pretty much just be laptops.

C7. To the Future

I think that lots of the problems with technology is more to do with habit than with the actual technology itself, and I think these problems can be mitigated over time as people become accustomed to integrating technology into their lives and so I think moving toward adapting it is where we should be heading toward. Especially in education since we have a growing online academia.

C6. Distractions - Why Both Bsh1's C1 and C2 Don't Make Sense!! -

I pointed out in my counter cases that Bsh1's studies aren't conducive to bsh1's case. All studies neglected important factors. Study 1 does not take into account studying or the problem of veratim note-taking, Study 2 were told "to take notes on a lecture, just like you would in class. Please take whatever kind of notes you’d take in a class where you expected to be tested on the material later—don’t change anything just because you’re in a lab.” which inconclusively covers verbatim note-taking. Study 3 ignores the control for verbatim note-taking and tries to account for studying, but only allows 10 minutes of studying. These 10 minutes are only a small fraction (10%) of the portion of studying suggested in order for students to do well. The study I cited in link (0) showed that even though laptop note-takers performed worse, every single student performed badly, These studies are really bad simulations of real educational environments.

This goes back to the point on lack of evidence. Its true that bsh1 uses sources and studies for his claims, but the fact is, the sources and studies just aren't good. Bad studies are just as good as no study at all. They might even be worse because they cause people to draw false conclusions.

Last Words:

Laptops give greater efficiency in many areas. On balance, the many benefits of the personal laptop in schools outweigh its costs. The costs that bsh1 showed us are either minimally exclusive to a minority or based on really bad studies whereas the benefits of laptops are common sense realities. I would take all the efficiencies that a laptop provides for me as a dedicated student along with the danger of reading 10-minute articles in class any day.


0 is the broken link from last round. My apologies!
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Debate Round No. 3


Thanks to Alyssa; great debate! I would, at this time, remind Pro that she must "waive" in this final round. My mission in this round is to defend my case, and then to present some voting issues that will explain why a Con ballot needed.


C1: Laptops Distract Students

Pro makes several arguments against my studies. The first problem with Pro's analysis is that she assumes I am referring to a single study, for example, when she writes: "[t]he study that bsh1 has us consider...". In fact, I cited multiple studies in this contention, each of which needed to be addressed separately. But now lets move on to discuss the specific objections Pro raised.

Pro suggests that if classrooms had no internet access, then this would solve the distraction problem. Their are several flaws with this line of analysis: (1) lack of connectivity does not prevent distractions, as I may have downloaded games on to my computer that may not need connectivity to operate, or I may be using an application like a word processor to do some other non-internet-related activity; (2) if there is no connectivity in the classroom, then Pro cannot access/achieve the supposed benefits of laptops she describes such as instant data access or saving time/space, because I cannot use the internet or applications (e.g. cloud storage) in class--at the very least, these impacts of hers would be diminished; and (3) it is often impractical to simply remove connectivity from rooms--wifi access can be achieve through phones that generate hotspots, and shutting down access for specific buildings may be difficult when the whole campus has wifi.

Pro then posits the idea that post-lecture tests are not a good way to measure student performance as it doesn't model a real-life classroom environment. Again, there are several problems with this: (1) not all of my studies measured student performance this way, so Pro's quibble with this method does not rebut all of my data; (2) post-lecture tests do sometimes model real-life classes--I have been in classes where pop quizzes or end-of-class tests were a staple of the course, so it seems that this method does at least reflect some real-life classes; (3) if students who use laptops have poorer recall on post-lecture tests, it shows that they absorbed less information, which strongly implies that they will do poorly on any exam on the topic, whether it is minutes after the lecture or weeks after it; and (4) Pro herself admits, "laptop users who look up things perform worse than people who don't use laptops."

Pro then reiterates her Washington Post study. Unfortunately, the new link she posted was also broken. In fact, all of her links this debate were totally inaccessible. This means that we should prefer my studies because at least we can access them to ascertain their validity and credibility. Since we cannot access Pro's study, we just have to take her word for it that the study is credible and valid. Posting a correct link this round would also be too late, since I would have no chance to examine and rebut it based on its content.

Pro's next objection was that I ignored a controlled study and that I am ignoring that homework helps students who use laptops make up ground. Firstly, I offered a controlled study of my own in Round 2: "The results of the regression analysis clearly show that success in the class was negatively related to the level of laptop use...ACT scores, HSR, and attendance should act as proxy measures for variables such as academic aptitude, preparation, and conscientiousness. After controlling for these variables, laptop use was still negatively related to academic success." Secondly, lectures often contain information that isn't in the homework, or they distill arguments in order to make them more understandable; therefore, being distracted in a lecture deprives you of information and/or it makes it harder to understand the homework material. Lectures are there for a reason, and student who pays attention in a lecture and does homework is going to do better than a student who just does homework.

Finally, Pro does not rebut any of my evidence that shows the visual nature of laptops is inherently more distracting than pen and paper. Extend this.

C2: Learning and Note-taking with Laptops is Shallow

First, cross-apply my arguments about how post-lecture tests are effective measurements, and about how doing homework really isn't going to catch lagging students up. This is going to address a lot of Pro's concerns with my second contention. Pro attempts to emphasize these points citing various studies; unfortunately, none of Pro's links are usable, so we cannot assess the validity or comprehensiveness of these studies. This has to undermine the strength of Pro's claims. Again, it would be too late to post the links in the final round, since I have no way of rebutting them or analyzing them in-round.

It is also worth reiterating, regarding the idea that studying outside of class does not making up for what is lost during the lecture, that one of my sources wrote: "the ability to consult such extensive notes does not compensate for students’ lessened classroom participation as they devote more attention to the taking of those notes." This is, as I noted earlier, going to mean that student's comprehension of information falters, which may hinder their ability to critically assess the data their textbooks and notes are conveying to them. Additionally, I cited evidence which concluded: "when students use electronic devices while studying, their learning and understanding is 'shallow' rather than deep and that they are less likely to do well on tests and assignments." So, even studying from or with laptops outside of class reduces comprehension of material.

Pro also suggests that verbatim note-taking can also be done long-hand. Firstly, notice that Pro never rebuts that taking verbatim notes reduce comprehension. Extend this; all I need to show now is that laptops increase verbatim note-taking, and I have shown that they are harmful in this fashion. Secondly, Pro's inset quote from the study does not actually (as Pro claims it does) admit that verbatim note-taking can be done long-hand. Thirdly, even if verbatim note-taking can be done long-hand, most people type faster than they write [1], so it is going to be far easier to mindlessly take verbatim notes while typing than it is while writing, so I still retain impacts here.

Finally, Pro really offers no studies of her own to contradict my claims in this contention. Even if you dislike the methods of some of the sources I cited (though I already defended such methods), we should prefer some studies to no studies. And that is the exact choice Pro is giving us here: something or nothing. We should prefer something.


1. Laptops are Distracting

Laptops are inherently more distracting than pen and paper; they have been shown in studies that controlled for possible confounding variables to reduce classroom success (not just success on post-lecture tests); and, homework or outside study is unlikely to help distracted students catch up.

2. Laptops Diminish Comprehension

Reliable studies have shown that verbatim note-taking is harmful to learning; moreover, Pro does not contest this. Laptops increase the chances that a person will take verbatim notes, and, consequently, decrease the chances that people will comprehend the information presented to them.

3. Severity

Prefer my impacts because they're more severe. We measure student learning through tests--even Pro has seemed to implicitly accept that. If laptops aren't paying off on tests, they aren't helping students learn. Pro never shows that laptops help on tests, whereas I show they're harmful. Plus, I can perm a lot of Pro's offense, which reduces Pro's impact offense.


Thank you! Please VOTE CON!


Thank you bsh1 for a very challenging and very fun debate, and thank you everyone else for reading!

Debate Round No. 4
38 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by gmr2009 5 months ago
Regarding the issue of laptops in the classroom, an assumption of mine is that we are becoming an electronic world as technology is strengthening our possibilities and shaping our future. Technology has revolutionized our society. Professionals are using technology as a tool to study, analyze, interrupt, and solve problems. Thus, technology, including the use of laptops in the classroom, is becoming a central point of communication and education within our society.
Posted by AIyssa 2 years ago
But land is a resource too! More trees being planted means more land being used up and land arability being squandered. Fertility isn't eternal you know!

Resource efficiency is something we should strive for. Demand is not the end all be all. Oil companies are losing money because of the big influx of oil from home. Prices go boop down the drain with disproportionate demand, but what's important is that we have more oil to sustain us along with lessened dependence on foreign oil.
Posted by 16kadams 2 years ago
saving trees is a bad argument, as using paper increases the amount of trees (tree farms get planted due to paper demand, more demand = more trees. They wouldn't exist otherwise).
Posted by BLAHthedebator 2 years ago
Darn. My RFD part 4 got deleted in progress. I'll summarize it here.

...meant to be placed on a desk. Thus, it is irrelevant.

Her sixth counter doesn't even counter anything. It is literally a new argument which is against the rules of this debate. Hence, this was already a win to Con anyway.

Her last argument only reiterates her arguments against Con's contentions, which was already shown to have failed.

Con's counters (I will make this extremely summarized as I do not have much time) just found more holes to poke in Pro's arguments. They addressed nearly all of her concerns, and showed that her rebuttals were nonsense and unsupported.

Hence, I vote Con.
Posted by AIyssa 2 years ago
I really don't agree with how you're weighing some of these things or the scope of perception of what I wrote out but that might just be me being biased and weighing things in my favor in my head, but thank you so much for writing it out!

And thank you YYW for voting and explaining, it helps a lot!
Posted by YYW 2 years ago
Post RFD Comments:

PRO did a very good job with some things but a lot of her evidence just wasn't there. CON did a very good job with some things too, but there is a really big difference between "laptops in class" and "student use of laptops while generally pursuing an education."
Posted by YYW 2 years ago
Resolved: "On balance the regular use of personal laptops in school or college is beneficial for the student."

PRO's arguments are these: (1) A laptop would make my education literally portable and easier to access. I could look up data or read course material almost instantly wherever there's internet, any time I want! (2) portable text storage that you can take anywhere with you. (3) Carrying a backpack full of notebooks for all of your courses with textbooks and binders and sheets of paper + (environmental benefits). Many of PRO's arguments were redundant. The "look stuff up" point carried over into three of her actual contentions. No evidence for the environmental benefit point. Online schooling component was a good one.

CON's arguments are these: (1) Studies show that laptops in class produce bad educational outcomes of various kinds. (2) Students engage with material intellectually less when they don't hand write notes. CON rebuts PRO's points consistent with his first contention, that online schooling is bad and leads to bad things, and the capacity to look things up produces bad educational outcomes because it distracts students from class. PRO rests mainly on efficiency, whereas CON's approach examines actual impacts to student learning, such that there is a lack of depth and engagement when students use laptops and a greater level of engagement with material when laptops are not used. I'm not persuaded that laptops diminish comprehension, but as between laptops and hand writing notes, the evidence generally suggests that student comprehension is greater when notes are not taken on laptops. A narrow win for CON.
Posted by BLAHthedebator 2 years ago
RFD part 3

...problem is wifi access. However this again undermines her point about instant data access. Also, the fact that laptops could be brought around rather than having to walk to the library, is not a strong enough impact. Plus, it literally fails in refuting Con's argument about distracting articles, because Pro simply states that it's not worrisome enough. Again distraction was actually a main point from Con and as shown it has a large effect on student's learning.

Her third counter attempts to refute Con's concerns for her argument. However, it completely fails once again. Her common sense argument is a failure as it is just not common sense that all students would use these laptops wisely. Her weight rebuttal fails because she herself does not use working sources or studies to support her arguments or rebut Con's arguments. Her severity counter is useless because although the 10.2% improvement is (supposedly) minor, it is still an improvement regardless. Finally her permutation argument is about portability once again, which as shown above fails. Mainly, the very fact that it is portable even reinforces Con's arguments because you can bring laptops to different classes, thus risking distraction for all periods of school.

For her fourth counter she only responds to one concern brought up by Con, another example of her dropping arguments. Yet, she fails more. It is not common sense that laptops weigh less than six textbooks, since the weight of textbooks and laptops vary. Pro says that textbooks weigh, on average, 3.5 pounds, but there is no evidence supporting this. It is not common sense that laptops are smaller than six textbooks as again the size varies.

In her fifth counter Pro writes that environmental issues should matter to schools. However once again this is non-topical as we are talking about the benefits of laptops to students, not anything else. Also, Pro uselessly states that desktops weigh more than six textbooks, since they are m
Posted by BLAHthedebator 2 years ago
RFD part 2

...regardless of duration. Pro tries to refute this by stating that removing wifi could help the problem of multitasking. However this completely undermines her point about using the laptop to look difficult words and phrases up, because to look things up on the Internet you must have wifi. She also tries to refute this by stating that it is not a good model of real education, but if schools have done it before then it should be considered part of real education. She then even tries to go on and state that 10.2% difference in post-lecture test scores are a minority, but that doesn't mean it's an improvement, and 10.2% can actually make a difference in whether you get a failing grade or not.

Then she refutes his study by stating that it ignores the fact that the students using laptops as a distraction are the problem, but that does not give a great enough impact. You could remove the laptops and they wouldn't be the problem anymore.

In the second rebuttal, Pro states that verbatim note-taking is a problem but we don't know if laptops are the cause. However, we can conclude from Con's arguments that it is at least part of the cause, since, as shown, people tend to take notes faster on laptops and are thus more capable of verbatim note-taking than with pencil and paper.

Round 3 (shown as Pro's round 3 and Con's round 4)

Finally, we come to the counter-rebuttals. Again let us start with Pro's counters.

Pro's first counter consists of refuting topicality and effectiveness. However she fails to argue both. She says it is nonsense to reject students connecting through laptops, but again even this isn't even topical. For effectiveness, Pro counters by arguing that online courses are free and students face no negative consequences of failing. However even this isn't topical, and this as nothing to do with effectiveness.

Her second counter argues that the difference between laptops and desktops is that laptops are portable, and that the real pr
Posted by BLAHthedebator 2 years ago

I will write this RFD by comparing the contentions and rebuttals of both sides.

Round 1 and 2 (shown as Pro's round 1, round 2, and Con's round 3)

Pro starts off with saying that laptops could be used for college education on the internet instead, not at school. However this is irrelevant as we are talking about the actual use of laptops in an actual school and class. Con points this out, as well as a drop in effectiveness. Pro then goes on to say that you could look up phrases or words that seem unfamiliar, but Con refutes this in stating that as you look it up you are missing an entire portion of the lecture. As her third point, Pro states that it is an efficient use of time, but again, Con still finds large holes in this argument. The lack of evidence made this claim ineffective, it was not measurable and did not have a severe impact. Also Con points out that while it saves more time than even desktops and library computers, the desktops still save time, and regardless the harms outweigh the benefits. Even Pro's fourth contention was refuted this way.

Pro's fifth point argues that we can save trees with laptops, but again Con reinstates the point that this is off-topic, as we are arguing the benefits of laptops on a student instead of the environment, and that desktops can still save trees as well.

Pro's sixth point was basically conceded, as the quoted information only strengthened Con's argument.

Finally, Pro's last point about moving to the future was again refuted by Con in saying that we can still find other methods of cutting down on spent money without adding negative effects.

So far, all of Pro's arguments are flawlessly refuted. Let us move on to Con's round.

Con's first argument was based on distraction, which was also what Pro's conceded point was about. Con provides IRREFUTABLE evidence with several studies and sources that students without access to laptops performed better that those who were given access to them, regardl
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by YYW 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Narrow win for CON. See comments for RFD.
Vote Placed by BLAHthedebator 2 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Pro posted broken links and just did not argue a strong enough case. All of Con's contentions were very compelling, and Pro just dropped too much. Pro's case was full of dropping and concession. Obviously this is a clear win for Con. A clearer RFD will be in the comments.