Discipline-Based Education Research Group


Date of this Version


Document Type



DBER Group Discussion on 2013‐11‐07


Copyright (c) 2013 Douglas Duncan


The recent increase in use of devices such as laptop computers, iPads and web‐enabled phones has generated concern about how technologies affect student performance. Combining observation, survey, and interview data, our two years of research quantifies the effects of this technology use on student learning. Faculty policy has a strong effect on student behavior, although all 8 faculty members whose classes were studied far underestimated the amount of off‐task use taking place during their teaching (primarily phone use for texting). Our in‐depth interviews with 24 students give insight into the students’ attitudes about technology use, and confirm results from Stanford that indicate students consistently overestimate their ability to multi‐task. A general approach to deciding when and if to introduce technology into teaching will be briefly discussed. This approach and our data can be especially useful in universities where nonfaculty (administrators, IT departments) push faculty to adopt new technology.