While studies find that mobile devices in the classroom can be a distraction, they are not going away any time soon. Jeffrey Kuznekoff, professor of integrative studies at the Miami University branch in Middletown, OH, decided to take a closer look. He found that students who used their smartphones to text about course content earned scores on par with those who put their phones away in class.
In his study, Mobile Phones in the Classroom: Examiningthe Effects of Texting, Twitter, and Message Content on Student Learning, 145 randomly selected undergrads in communications classes were asked to take notes while watching a 12-minute video lecture on interpersonal communication theories. Students were divided into groups and exposed to different smartphone distractions during the video.
After the distractions, students were allowed a short review period before taking two tests. The first asked students to recall as much information from the video as possible and the second was a 16-question multiple-choice exam on the content.
Students in a control group did score a letter grade higher than those texting on topics unrelated to the lecture, but students who texted about the content had scores similar to the control group. In addition, students asked to tweet every 60 seconds on the content of the video scored higher than those who tweeted every 30 seconds.
“They’re still engaging with the content in some fashion, still mentally processing it,” Kuznekoff said in an article for Inside Higher Education. “That appears, in this short-term experiment, to not have a significantly detrimental effect on learning.”