Activity 14.1: Reading the paper (3 hours)
Read the paper in full and consider these questions:
- What methodological advantages does the study claim over previous research?
Using an ethnographic approach to study the students' learning intentions allows consideration of the whole range of activities for which the students use a laptop in the situation of the lecture and thus opens up the understanding of the changes in student learning in a lecture context. This is in contrast to isolated studies which compare laptop use to traditional notetaking behaviours.
- What might be the disadvantages of this approach? What alternative methods of data collection or analysis could have been possible?
The students' learning intentions may not coincide with the lecturers' learning intentions but this would be difficult to detect without triangulation. In this case a lecturer is also a researcher and may be presuming learning intentions.
Inability to generalise to other audiences.
Quantitative results from survey data would allow comparison with groups of students from other disciplines
Screen capture, recording key presses, monitor internet usage.
- How does the approach relate to the account of ethnography provided by Hammersley in Reading 15 last week? Can the research be considered an ethnography?
Fairly lengthy time period of 4 years quoted but actually 3X10 week courses
Development over time is not considered
Following students for the whole day
Participation - researchers only participate in role of lecturer
Context is examined but not accounted for i.e. IT course with students who are used to using technologies and encouraged to use laptops. Cannot find any mention of the type of university.
Methods include semi-structured interviews and observation
Concentration of perceptions of participants
Concentration on lecture
- What do Goffman's account of "involvement" and the authors' use of the term "alignment" add to the research?
These terms allow examination of laptop use at various levels of involvement with the lecture. It removes the dichotomy of 'good' and 'bad' use of a technology and examines the perceptions and techniques of the students. I was really interested to see that laptop use appeared to be deepening the learning experiences of the students as they moved from passive consumption of a lecture to relating the information to their own requirements and also to critical analysis of the information being presented to them.
- To what extent were the authors able to present evidence to support their major findings? Would other researchers with the same data reach similar conclusions?
The methodology is heavily theory-based and the conclusions drawn appear to come as much from the literature as they do from the actual research. The authors seem to have undertaken the research from a pre-determined viewpoint and many other interpretations may be possible from the reported conversations.
- To what extent do the implications for practice follow from the findings?
Etiquette - this follows from interview data showing student confusion over what is permissible but more work is required as rules may restrict and confine use and reduce the usability of laptops.
More training in IT skills does not follow from the research findings but does seem intuitive as students need to be competent in a range of techniques in order to be able to notetake efficiently.
No evidence is shown for the laptop acting as 'glue' between different settings - again this is intuitive.
Evidence is produced indicating that students become more involved in lectures but these are IT students who are presumably comfortable with various technologies and able to use them without the use taking up a lot of their concentration. Many students from other disciplines may not be able to multi-task like this as the actions are not habitual.
Design for minimal disturbance also seems to be produced from literature review rather than from evidence derived from this particular study.
- Do you think there are aspects of laptop use in education not considered by the paper?
The effect of the fact this is an IT course
Whether all students have laptops they can use
Mention is made of students using unaligned subordinate activities but not of the perception of other students to these activities. I have personally experienced complaints from students who are distracted from lectures by highly coloured flashing games screens.
- What could a section on ethics have considered?
'Covert analysis' -
The effect of the teacher carrying out the research. Power positions/control of marks in course
Ethics of asking 'who is on your contact list?' and how willing young people are to disclose this material.
- Do the grammatical errors in the paper affect your assessment of the quality of the research?
OK - I have to admit here that I am a real pedant over grammar and spelling! Incorrect use of English in an academic setting really annoys me and I do find it difficult to look past this to see the true value of the research. I consider that a researcher who does not thoroughly check their presentation will also be the sort of person who is unlikely to thoroughly check their literature background; research their methodology; check their results; and thoroughly consider their conclusions. I would tend to avoid their work or assess it very carefully if I needed to consider its findings. I cannot understand why Computers & Education published this paper in its current form.