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Jun 17, 2014 09:57 AM EDT

Non-Academic Internet Usage in the Classroom Can Bring Down Exam Grades for Even the Brightest Students

Laptops can be a student's best friend inside the classroom, but start surfing the Internet for non-related purposes and suffer the consequences.

According to a new study from Michigan State University (MSU), published in the journal Computers and Education, web browsing can harm even the brightest students. The researchers found that students were not good at multitasking and dividing their attention no matter what their ACT scores suggested about their intellect.

"Students of all intellectual abilities should be responsible for not letting themselves be distracted by use of the Internet," study lead investigator Susan Ravizza, an MSU associate professor of psychology, said in a press release.

The study researchers' theory was that students with higher ACT scores would be better at splitting their attention between the laptop and the instructor, managing the distraction. However, they found that students with higher and lower ACT scores suffered on the exam as a result of their non-academic laptop use in class.

But the researchers only found evidence of a problem and their work did not produce a solution. With technology today, laptops are only one of many devices that connect to the Internet. Teachers cannot just ask students to leave all cell phones, tablets and laptops in their cars or at home. Such devices are extremely valuable, cell phones are the primary line of communication for most everyone and they could be an asset in the classroom if utilized properly.

"What would you do, have hundreds of people put their cell phones in a pile and pick them up after class?" Ravizza told the Huffington Post.

Erik Anger, a professor at George Mason University, is among those who would rather see his students jotting notes with a pen and notebook. He said laptops have the tendency to distract more than just its owner.

"I can tell when somebody's watching kittens on their laptop, and there's an entire sector behind them of students who can't focus," Anger told the HP. "It's not the paternalism that motivates... it's the fact that they bother all these other students who have trouble focusing and are there to learn."

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