Daniel Mallinson, Penn State University – Engaging Citizen-Students through Technology

On Penn State University Week:  Tech in classrooms is becoming a necessity, but how do we make it more efficient?

Daniel J. Mallinson, assistant professor of public policy and administration, looks into this question.

Daniel Mallinson received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the Pennsylvania State University. His expertise lies in state and local politics and policy, with his main research focus examining the mechanics of policy diffusion among the U.S. states. Additional interests include public administration and public policy as well as statistical methodology. He is particularly interested in Pennsylvania State politics and has experience as an Information Specialist for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and a Program Analyst for the Office of Inspector General in Philadelphia (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). He has published in a variety of journals, including Policy Studies Journal, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, State & Local Government Review, and Statistics, Policy, & Politics. He received the Robert S. Friedman Award for Excellence in Teaching from Penn State University and has published about pedagogy in political science in PS: Political Science & Politics.

Engaging Citizen-Students through Technology

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Faculty struggle with student engagement in their classrooms. Everyone has the experience of students nodding off or swiping left and right during class, especially in large courses. Numerous student engagement platforms promise to increase interaction in our courses, but my study focuses on one app-based platform called Nearpod. Think of Nearpod as clickers plus a lot more.

Students use a laptop, phone, or tablet to follow the instructor’s slides and embedded activities during each class session. For this project, we collected data from ten courses across several disciplines and levels. The findings show how NearPod improves overall engagement with instructors and peers as well as how it helps students better achieve the learning outcomes of a specific course. That said, this multi-site study suggests that the link between technology and engagement is complicated, and that technology integration may be a necessary but not a sufficient, condition for teaching and learning transformation.

The project also suggests other ways in which technology can be used to engage students. An additional project was embedded in my introductory American politics course to examine how the integration of NearPod into the course increases students’ feelings of civic agency (an important learning outcome). The results from the civic agency study suggest that the course structure, including the use of Nearpod, does in fact promote increased civic agency, even among non-political science majors. 

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