Tuesday, 14 October 2014

does in-class technology use by students enhance or diminish learning?

A couple of weeks ago this issue was raised on the Team-Based Learning Collaborative email forum. Members were asking whether or not instructors should allow students to use their tablets, laptops and smartphones in class. Does it enhance or diminish students' educational experience? Does it impact student learning outcomes?

I think there are two things to consider here. One is the use for whole class testing/polling which I think makes pretty good sense - there is plenty of published data suggesting that personal response systems (clickers), for example, enhance student learning.

No, the real issue here is whether or not student use of these devices during lecture enhances or detracts and whether it enhances learning when used to research in-class assignments. This is the real question.

It seems to me that their use during lecture will diminish student learning because students cannot multitask. However,this point is probably moot because there should be less lecturing and more active learning going on in the 21st century classroom. I think students will be less inclined to send texts and check email if they are actively engaged in the class. If the technology is used to complete in-class assignments as can happen, for example, during the application phase of Team-Based Learning then I think this is similar to Eric Mazur's assertion that if it is an authentic assessment (formative like TBL apps or summative as in a final exam) it should make no difference. If the question or problem being considered by the student is directly searchable by Google, then it probably isn't an authentic assessment. Which means that this is a difficult task for instructors: setting authentic assessments.


Brady, M., Seli, H., & Rosenthal, J. (2013). “Clickers” and metacognition: A quasi-experimental comparative study about metacognitive self-regulation and use of electronic feedback devices. Computers & Education, 65(July), 56–63. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2013.02.001

Curzan A. 2014. Why I’m Asking You Not to Use Laptops. The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 25. Available from: http://chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2014/08/25/why-im-asking-you-not-to-use-laptops/
Fulbright S. 2013. Cell Phones in the Classroom: What’s Your Policy? Faculty Focus, April 15. Available from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-classroom-management/cell-phones-in-the-classroom-whats-your-policy/

Mazur E. (2012) Promoting ownership of learning with authentic assessment. Allen ISD/November Learning Webinar at the Harvard Universtiy in Cambridge, MA, October 2. Available from http://mazur.harvard.edu/sentFiles/MazurTalk_2013.pdf

Orlando J. 2010. Using Polling and Smartphones to Keep Students Engaged. Faculty Focus, October 4. Available from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/using-polling-and-smartphones-to-keep-students-engaged/

Robinson, D. H., & Walker, J. D. (2008). Technological alternatives to paper-based components of team-based learning. New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 2008(116), 79–85.

Strauss V. 2014. Why a leading professor of new media just banned technology use in class. The Washington Post, September 25. Available from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/09/25/why-a-leading-professor-of-new-media-just-banned-technology-use-in-class/?tid=pm_local_pop

Weimer M. 2014. The Age of Distraction: Getting Students to Put Away Their Phones and Focus on Learning. Faculty Focus, January 8. Available from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/the-age-of-distraction-getting-students-to-put-away-their-phones-and-focus-on-learning/

Weimer M. 2012. Students Think They Can Multitask. Here’s Proof They Can’t. Faculty Focus, September 26. Available from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/multitasking-confronting-students-with-the-facts/