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Abstract

This study examines the impact of handheld computers on students in a first year Information Technology course (IT101), measuring IT attitudes, skills, and performance. Students in standard sections used their laptop computers and traditional textbooks. Students in intensive sections used both handheld computers and laptop computers, that is, multiple platforms. Both standard and intensive sections covered the same topics. Although students in both standard and intensive sections became more skilled during the semester, students in the intensive sections improved more in programming and Microsoft Excel skills. Students in intensive sections also scored significantly better than students in the standard sections on the common portion of the final exam. Finally, according to anecdotal evidence, students in the intensive sections gained significantly more skill-based confidence in IT unrelated to handheld computers compared to students in the standard sections. Seven of our ten expectations were supported. While students benefited from the intensive version of IT101, several factors could account for the improvements: a self-selection factor, an active learning vs. textbook learning factor, and possibly an instructor factor. Future research should shed light on the relative weights of these factors.

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