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Student Attention in Unstructured-Use, Computer-Infused Classrooms

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Best of Computer in Education Division

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1093.1 - 23.1093.14



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Paper Authors


Mahnas Jean Mohammadi-Aragh Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Jean Mohammadi-Aragh is a Ph.D. candidate and dean’s teaching fellow in Virginia Tech's Engineering Education Department. Prior to joining the Engineering Education Department, Mohammadi-Aragh earned her B.S. in 2002 and her M.S. in 2004 in Computer Engineering at Mississippi State University. Mohammadi-Aragh was a scientific visualization and virtual reality researcher for the Geosystems Research Institute, and outreach coordinator for Mississippi State's Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. Her current research interests focus on technology in engineering education, human computer interaction, educational data mining, and scientific visualization.

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Christopher B. Williams Virginia Tech

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Professor Dr. Chris Williams is an assistant professor with a joint appointment with the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He is the director of the Design, Research, and Education for Additive Manufacturing Systems (DREAMS) Laboratory and the co-director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Innovation-based Manufacturing. His joint appointment reflects his diverse research interests in Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing), design methodology, and design education.

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Student Attention in Unstructured-Use, Computer-Infused ClassroomsThe number of computer-infused classrooms is increasing due to an increasing number ofengineering programs requiring students to purchase personal computers. Typically,there are two types of computer-infused classrooms. In the structured-use paradigm,computers are integrated into instructional activities in a meaningful and deliberatemanner and every student is required to bring a computer to class. In the unstructured-use paradigm, instructors may use computers for lecture delivery, but student computeruse is neither directed nor required. In past research, the structured-use paradigm hasbeen related to increased student attitudes and successful behaviors that support learning.Despite this finding, unstructured-use continues to be common in classrooms because ofthe time requirements for learning instructional technology and modifying lectures.One possible explanation for the difference in learning between structured-use andunstructured-use computer-infused classrooms is that structured-use encourages studentattentiveness. Distraction and inattentiveness are significant concerns for educators asattention is a fundamental requirement for learning.In order to gain an understanding of student attention in unstructured-use classrooms, theauthors collected data in a computer-infused statics course (~300 seats) and a dynamicscourse (~100 seats), both of which have unstructured computer usage. The authors useda software tool to automatically capture, in real-time, data related to the students’computer’s top-most, “active” window. The authors also conducted in-class observationsof student computer-use to validate the use of using the captured active window data as aproxy for attention in unstructured-use classrooms. Attention patterns are reported forboth the qualitative naturalistic observations and the quantitative active-windowmeasurements. The data are compared to previously collected data from structured-useclassrooms. Differences and similarities between student-attention in structured-use andunstructured-use computer-infused classrooms are discussed.The findings can be used as empirical evidence to encourage instructors to incorporatestructured computer-use into their pedagogical practice.

Mohammadi-Aragh, M. J., & Williams, C. B. (2013, June), Student Attention in Unstructured-Use, Computer-Infused Classrooms Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22478

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