Personal laptops: Tools for engagement

Technology has an undeniable impact on learning: 96 percent of teachers nationwide agree that technology increases student engagement. While the widespread availability of Chromebooks at Berkeley High School has drastically improved, there are still times when they are hard to access. In response, some students have begun bringing their personal laptops to school. Despite specific risks, students should be encouraged to bring their own laptops to school because they can further engagement and content retention while easing the demand for school-provided technology.   

Laptops are especially important because they can capture and hold the attention of students. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Interactive Media in Education found that technology-enhanced learning led to a variety of benefits for student engagement. In the short term, students better retained factual information and developed more interest in their classes. In the long term, students developed improved work habits. Allowing and encouraging students to bring their computers to school would create more opportunities to increase this type of student engagement. 

It is important to note, however, that technology-enhanced learning also requires non-digital activities. Striking a balance between technology and traditional methods is key to preventing students from overusing their laptops. To do this, teachers should only encourage personal laptop use in specific situations such as note-taking during lectures. They allow students to view lecture slides at a close distance and better digest the class content. A 2021 study published by the Public Library of Science found that students who used their laptops to view lecture slides had significantly better exam scores. 

While teachers are trying to be as deliberate as possible with laptop use, many students are already taking steps to prevent distraction. Junior Chang-Min Kung brings her laptop to school every day and uses it to work during flex periods, at lunch, and after school. Despite bringing it to school, she says she “will never have it out in a way that will distract me, or in a situation where I haven’t been told to use it.”

Personal laptops at school can also benefit other students, by easing the demand for school-provided technology like Chromebooks. When more students bring their laptops to school, fewer Chromebooks are needed for each class. The increased Chromebook availability will make it easier for those who don’t bring a laptop to school to access it.

This is not to say that bringing personal laptops to school is risk-free. “One time during lunch, I had my bag open with my computer, and a random person started going through it,” Kung said. “I asked them what they were doing, and they didn’t respond, so I ended up needing to physically remove them from my bag,” she said.

Despite the unsettling experience, Kung continues to bring her laptop because of the precautions she has begun taking. “I try to always keep my bag in sight and am definitely more aware of my surroundings when my computer is out. I also always put my computer away if I leave the room,” she said. 

All in all, bringing one’s laptop to school comes with a host of benefits as well as some drawbacks. While you may be more likely to stay engaged and retain content, you also face persistent distractions and the risk of theft.