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Effect of Laptops in Large Lecture Classes on Attentiveness and Engagement

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Pedagogical Issues in Computing

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.532.1 - 22.532.19



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Paper Authors


Perry Samson University of Michigan

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Perry J. Samson is the Associate Chair and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences at the University of Michigan. Perry is the recipient of the College of Engineering Excellence in Teaching Award, 2009 Teaching Innovation Award and the 2010 Distinguished Professor of the Year in the State of Michigan. Professor Samson is also the co-founder of the Weather Underground (

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Effect of Laptops in Large Lecture Classes on Attentiveness and EngagementAbstractThe value of in-class Internet technologies to student attentiveness, engagement, and learningremains both controversial and filled with promising potential. In this study, conducted overthree years, students were given the option to use LectureTools, an interactive suite of toolsdesigned specifically for larger classes. The availability of these tools dramatically changed themechanics of the course as over 90% of students attending lecture voluntarily brought theirlaptops to class. On one hand, surveys over multiple semesters show that students believe theavailability of a laptop is more likely to increase their time on tasks unrelated to the conduct ofthe course. On the other hand, the surveys also ascertained that students felt more attentive withthe technology, significantly more engaged, and able to learn more with the technology than insimilar classes without it.The use of this technology also led to a dramatic increase in the number of students posingquestions during class time, with more than half posing at least one question during class overthe course of a semester, a percentage far higher than achieved in semesters prior to the use ofthis technology. These results suggest that while having laptops in the classroom can be adistraction to students, students of today show confidence that they are capable of productivemultitasking, showing that they not only can handle this technology when applied through“deliberate engagement” using tools like LectureTools, but thrive with it, as seen throughimproved attentiveness, learning, and overall engagement even in larger classes.Keywords: Laptop use; Large classes; Post-secondary education; Student response systems; LectureTools; Clickers

Samson, P. (2011, June), Effect of Laptops in Large Lecture Classes on Attentiveness and Engagement Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17813

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