EED Seminar March 3, 2016

Behind the Laptops: Attention and Learning in Laptop-Infused Classrooms

As computers become more prevalent in engineering classrooms, it becomes increasingly important to understand how students use their computers in-class and how that usage is connected to learning and impacted by pedagogical practice. Armed with this knowledge, instructors’ design of classroom interventions aimed at increasing positive computer usage will be better informed. Using quantitative methods, we investigated computer usage through an examination of student attention by monitoring students’ top-most, active window.  This novel approach mitigates issues with prior data collection methods, and allows researchers the opportunity to capture complete, real-time student computer usage.  This talk includes a discussion of the validation of active window as a proxy for attention. Subsequent to validation, two applications of the active window method are discussed.  First, student computer use was characterized in multiple large lecture sections.  Second, an investigation into the relationship between pedagogy and attention was conducted by aligning time stamps of the active window record with classroom activities identified in video recordings of lectures. Results demonstrate strong construct validity when directly comparing active window and attention. Results from the two applications illustrate that instructors’ use of technology and pedagogical practices have a direct impact on student computer use.


Dr. Jean Mohammadi-Aragh is an assistant research professor with a joint appointment in the Bagley College of Engineering dean’s office and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Mississippi State University. Through her role in the Hearin Engineering First-year Experiences (EFX) Program, she is assessing the college’s current first-year engineering efforts, conducting rigorous engineering education research to improve first-year experiences, and promoting the adoption of evidence-based instructional practices. In addition to research in first year engineering, Dr. Mohammadi-Aragh investigates technology-supported classroom learning and using scientific visualization to improve understanding of complex phenomena. She earned her Ph.D. (2013) in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech, and both her M.S. (2004) and B.S. (2002) in Computer Engineering from Mississippi State. In 2013, Dr. Mohammadi-Aragh was honored as a promising new engineering education researcher when she was selected as an ASEE Educational Research and Methods Division Apprentice Faculty.



All EED seminars take place in 244G Hitchcock Hall unless specified otherwise.