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Please Play with your Phones – Using Student-Owned Personal Electronics to Enhance In Class Activities

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Classroom Management

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.986.1 - 24.986.15



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Paper Authors


Bridget M. Smyser Northeastern University

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Assistant Academic Specialist and Lab Director

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Please Play with your Phones – Using Student-Owned Personal Electronics to Enhance In Class ActivitiesSmartphones, laptops, and tablets are ubiquitous among the current generation of students.Although there has been a movement toward using individual students’ electronics in K-12settings, or requiring students to purchase particular devices, there has been little work onharnessing the array of personal electronics typically carried by the average student. This workdiscusses the use of students’ personal electronics as tools to enhance in-class cooperativelearning activities. The course in question is a junior level course in Measurement and Analysis.Initially only calculators were allowed in class, and the use of phones and other personalelectronics forbidden. In subsequent course offerings, students were allowed to use tablets totake notes in conjunction with PowerPoint lectures posted on the course website. Most recently,students have been encouraged to use programs such as Notability to take notes, and are alsogiven in-class activities in statistics, graphing, and other data analysis tasks that are best done ona laptop. Additionally, ‘mini-experiments’ involving downloaded measurement applications,such as accelerometer data recorders, have been used to provide students with the opportunity todo real time measurement inside and outside of class. The result has been increased engagementin class discussions and improved scores on certain in-class activities. In addition, increasingnumbers of students are using smart devices in independent projects, including Capstone Design.Although the risk of student distraction is still present, there seems to be evidence thatencouraging the use of these devices for specific tasks can aid student learning and increaseinterest in classroom topics, without infrastructure expenditures by the college. In addition tomanaging distraction, careful thought must also be given to providing equal opportunities forlearning to students who have a wide variety of devices, or who lack smart devices of their own.Through careful design of activities and encouraging collaboration between students, thesedrawbacks can be managed.

Smyser, B. M. (2014, June), Please Play with your Phones – Using Student-Owned Personal Electronics to Enhance In Class Activities Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22919

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