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Laptop computers have become commonplace in K—12 and college classrooms. With that, educators now face a critical decision. Should they embrace computers and put technology at the center of their instruction? Should they allow students to decide for themselves whether to use computers during class?
Or should they ban screens altogether and embrace an unplugged approach? The right way forward is unclear, especially at colleges that pride themselves on connectivity.
The vast majority of students carry laptops or tablets from class to class to take notes, consult references, collaborate with professors and classmates—and to update social-media sites, order takeout, and watch YouTube videos during lectures.
The personal computer is a powerful tool. Not surprisingly, some professors have banned computers from class. But research shows many remain conflicted about their value: Two-thirds of professors in a slightly larger survey from the same school had laptop-optional policies, and one in five required them for class.
Although students overwhelmingly like to use their devices, a growing research base finds little evidence of positive effects and plenty of indications of potential harm.
To determine the impact of laptop usage on student performance, we conducted a randomized controlled trial among undergraduate students at the United States Military Academy, widely known by the name of its location in West Point, New York.
In the study, we designated who was allowed to use and who was prohibited from using laptops or tablets to take notes in class.
This effect is as large as the average difference in exam scores for two students whose cumulative GPAs at the start of the semester differ by 0. Importantly, these results are from a highly competitive institution where student grades directly influence employment opportunities at graduation—in other words, a school where the incentives to pay attention in class are especially high.
We believe our findings raise important questions for colleges and college students about the impact of using Internet-enabled devices during class and may have implications for K—12 educators as well. An Experiment at West Point The United States Military Academy is a four-year undergraduate institution with an enrollment of approximately 4, students.
Army and incur an eight-year service obligation with a five-year active-duty requirement. Comparing the student population at West Point with that at other four-year institutions reveals broad similarities, aside from a major difference in the proportion of female students. At West Point, only 17 percent of students are female compared to more than 50 percent of students at other four-year schools nationwide, on average see Figure 1.
West Point provides an ideal environment for conducting a randomized controlled classroom experiment about Internet-connected computer usage for a number of reasons. We chose to focus our study on one of these classes: Some sophomores enroll in the class each semester, but individual section or classroom sizes are low due to an institutional commitment that caps the faculty-to-student ratio at 1: Class sizes in our study were typically around 15 students.
West Point professors also do not have teaching assistants, so all grading and interaction is done between the student and the professor. Additionally, all students are required to attend class unless they have an excused absence, so we were not concerned that attendance is affected by class-level technology policies.
Second, despite the large enrollment and small class size, student assessment in Principles of Economics is highly standardized. All classes use the same syllabus and students complete the same homework and tests. This allows us to compare grades between classes.
Third, within a given time slot, students are randomly assigned to their particular class. West Point centrally generates student academic schedules, and students cannot request a specific professor.
Most importantly, prior to the first day of class, students are unaware of the computer policy of a particular class, and there is virtually no switching after the first day.
Fourth, all students at West Point are on equal footing in terms of access to educational resources: Students also complete an introductory computer science class their freshman year prior to taking Principles of Economics.
Further, West Point uses class rankings to assign each student to a military occupation and a specific military base following graduation. A student, therefore, is especially motivated to have a high GPA so that he or she can have a better chance of receiving a preferred occupation or location.
Finally, classes are well-structured: Cell phones are not permitted in any class, making laptops and iPads the most common Internet-connecting devices available to students.
In a setting where students were less motivated or there was less discipline, we might expect any distracting aspects of technology to be even more pronounced.An interactive, visual comparison of the most popular laptops on the market. Updated daily. Let's you filter laptops by specs, brand and price.
[This is the third part of a four part essay–here is Part I.]. If we are going to develop an Artificial Intelligence system as good as a human, an ECW or SLP say, from Part II of this essay, and if we want to get beyond that, we need to understand what current AI can hardly do at all.
Task What is the fundamental difference between experimental and correlational research? In a word, causality. In experimental research we manipulate a variable (predictor, independent variable) to see what effect it has on another variable (outcome, dependent variable).
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