Classroom Technology

Study Shows Benefits of Laptops, Software. Or Does It?

By Ian Quillen — September 08, 2010 1 min read
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The summary of a recent study at Columbus State University in Georgia says the study found students who regularly used laptops with interaction software to supplement their notes in an algebra-based introductory college physics course outperformed both sporadic laptop users and students without laptops.

Moreover, of 37 students observed in the class, the eight students who “sometimes” or “rarely” utilized their laptops and interaction software actually had a worse average final grade for the course than the eight students without computers.

There appears to be plenty of room, however, for lurking variables.

For one thing, there’s nothing in the report’s summary that indicates whether students with computers chose how often to use their laptops and the accompanying DyKnow Vision software, which transmits teacher content on the fly to student workstations during lessons. In other words, the choice to use laptops rarely, or not to purchase one for college, could be more of an indication of the student’s own motivation, thus effecting their performance. For what it’s worth, the average final grade of all 29 students with laptops was roughly 73 percent, compared to 67 percent for those eight students without.

Also, the sample size of 37 students is far smaller than, for example, the several thousand students observed in a recent study on linking technology use to higher achievement among secondary students in Algebra I courses.

The full study will be presented during an Oct. 25-26 Workshop on the Impact of Pen-Based Technology on Education at Virginia Tech, and will also be published in the workshop’s companion monograph, The Impact of Tablet PCs and Pen-Based Technology: Going Mainstream, 2010.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.