Saturday, November 15, 2014

Study #5: Research on In-Class Use of Laptops and Other Devices: Effects on Students’ Learning and Attention

Study #5: Research on In-Class Use of Laptops and Other Devices: Effects on Students’ Learning and Attention

(2014, September 24).  Research on in-class use of laptops and other devices: effects on students’ learning and attention.  The Teaching Center Journal. Retrieved from



The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of laptops and other electronic devices on a student’s attention and learning.  The authors looked into separate studies for sufficient data.  Researchers noted that students bring laptops to school for a variety of purposes, some educational and others not related to the course.  Some of the data will show that there were lower levels of engagement and negative relationships to students’ learning. Researchers investigated the difference between paper/pencil note-takers and laptop note-takers.  They noticed differences in memory retention.  Students that handwrite their class notes find way to select the most important information in order to keep up.  Those that were note-taking on their laptops give more of a transcript versus key notes.  The researchers believe there may be cognitive memory differences.  Researchers also noted that students who are “heavy media multitaskers”- able to switch between media and other tasks frequently had more difficulty separating relevant and irrelevant information.  This was further tested in the studies.

Participants and Methodology:

In one study conducted at the University of Michigan Center for Research Learning and Teaching.  The researchers selected sixteen various courses at the college.  In eight of the courses, the instructors were required to integrate technology and web-based lecture tools within their lessons.  The students could use their laptops to interact with lesson.  In the other eight courses, students could use their lessons but the instructors were required not to integrate web tools.  A total of 595 students were included in this study.

The second study was conducted at small university in the midwest.  137 students were surveyed.  The students were allowed to bring their laptops but the professor was not required to incorporate them into the lessons.  They completed multiple surveys related to attention, clarity in the lesson, and level of learning.  


In the first study, the courses that integrated lecture web tools and technology had higher levels of student engagement when compared to the classes that did not integrate technology into the lesson.  The integrated courses had 60% engagement whilst the control group (non-integrated lessons) had only 39% engagement.  In terms of learning, the integrated-technology courses had 53% of students reporting that the laptops helped their learning.  40% of the students in the non-integrated reported that it helped their learning.  In addition to reports of higher engagement and learning, 75% of the students in both groups also indicated that the laptops increased the amount of time they spent doing non-related activities on their computers.  They often felt distracted by other students’ computers as well.  The researchers determined that if the instructor incorporated technology into the lesson, the benefit was greater.  

In the second study, 83% of students reported that they used their laptops to take notes during the lecture.  At the same time, 81% of the students also reported using their laptops to check and send emails and 68% instant messaged.  43% surfed the web and 25% even played games.  In this study the researchers found that the use of laptops negatively affected a student’s course grades.  It also revealed that the students had lower engagement in the lesson and less understanding.  


I felt after reading this study that this is the real debate of going one-to-one.  Of course money and maintenance is a major consideration but what about the benefits on education.  These studies had conflicting data.  Technology can benefit learning but it can also cause unnecessary distraction.  One thing that I thought was key in the first study was the comparison courses that had technology integrated into the lesson versus the courses that did not.  This just goes to show how students prefer to learn and ways to help them stay engaged in today’s classroom.  As we have said before in class, technology is a tool.  If students are using it simply for the sake of using it, what is the benefit?  With younger students, it may be easier to control the technological distractions.  They are eager to learn the device or program.  The lesson may be more structured and the teacher may be more active in the activity.  As students get older, I see the multi-tasking increase and I see the teachers allowing more freedom with the technology.  The distractions may increase as well.  I think as we come into this new age of education, we are going to continue to see difficulties but also successes.  As the teacher, we need to be proactive and able to take risks.  I think, especially for older students, we need to gain a new type of patience.  We may not be able to control everything that is happening during the lesson in regards to the use of technology but we have to support the students the best way possible.

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