Profs use student smart phones to their advantage

“It really does make large classes seem small. It increases interaction in old-fashioned ways, too,” Lavaque-Manty said. “More students raise their hands. It’s very cool.”

Research conducted by Samson showed that the web-based student response system increased student participation dramatically in UM lecture halls during the winter 2009 semester.

One in five students asked an in-lecture question on more than five days during the winter semester, and half of students asked at least one question before, during, and after presentations.

Student respondents to the UM LectureTools survey said technology—such as the use of laptops—improves classroom engagement.

“These results suggest that students perceive themselves to have strong multitasking skills and that deliberate engagement of technology may not result in diminished student attentiveness and engagement,” the report said.

Using web-connected smart phones to surf the internet and text friends has been described as an epidemic among some in higher education in recent years.

Nine in 10 students said in a recent Wilkes University study that they have sent and received texts during class, although a much smaller portion of students believe educators should allow unlimited texting in class as long as it doesn’t disturb others.

A quarter of Wilkes students said that “texting creates a distraction to those sitting nearby” in a classroom or lecture hall. Three-quarters of respondents said they have been disturbed by the ringing of another student’s phone.

Research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows that half of teenagers surveyed send 1,500 text messages a month, and one-third of survey respondents send 100 texts every day, or 3,000 per month.

UM professors aren’t the first to convert a classroom distraction into an essential lecture tool.