Laptops Can Make Students More Attentive in Classrooms

Washington, May 21 (IANS): Laptops can help students become more engaged, attentive, participatory and learning-oriented in the classroom, says a new study.

Perry Samson, University of Michigan (UM), professor in atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences has developed robust interactive student response system called LectureTools, that utilises students' laptops.

"If you allow laptops in the classroom without a plan for how you'll use them, you can potentially invite disaster," says Samson.

"It's unlikely that students will be so entranced by class material that they won't wander off to their favourite social networking sites," Samson said.

"The key is to deliberately engage students through their computers. LectureTools does just that," he adds. Instructors at more than 400 colleges and universities have set up accounts to use it.

Samson recently surveyed close to 200 students who, over the past three semesters, have taken his Extreme Weather lecture course that utilised LectureTools.

Students reported that while they did sometimes stray from class tasks, laptops with LectureTools made them feel more attentive, engaged and able to learn, compared with classes that don't use the system.

"Our surveys showed that while laptop computers can be a distraction, students of this generation feel that they are capable of productive multitasking," Samson said.

Close to half of students surveyed said that having a laptop in class increased the amount of time they spent on tasks unrelated to the lecture.

But a full 78 percent agreed that laptops in class made them more engaged. Approximately, half said that having their laptops made them more attentive. Seventy percent said laptops had a positive effect on their learning, said an UM release.

"It is the first successful instance I've seen of dramatic use of information technology to augment the real-time classroom experience," said John King, vice provost for academic affairs and professor of information.

The study was published in the May edition of Computers & Education.




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