Research at the University of Colorado Boulder found that 75% of undergraduates at the institution reported texting during class. The study also linked in-class texting to an average drop of a half letter grade in the course.
Doug Duncan, an astronomy professor who co-authored the paper, settled on a simple solution: He asked his students if they would set aside their cellphones for a participation point for the class. The end result was the entire class voted to put down their phones for the duration of the class.
“I asked two students on their way out why they voted to put their phones on the desk,” Duncan said in a report for National Public Radio. “They said, ‘We know we aren’t supposed to use them, and this gives us a reward for doing that.’”
Larry Rosen, a research psychologist and professor emeritus at California State University, Dominguez Hills, isn’t sold on the idea that providing students an incentive is a good idea. In fact, his experiments have shown that students’ heart rates and other vital signs rise when they can’t answer their ringing phones.
Instead, Rosen recommends an interval approach to the phone distraction.
“I start by calling a tech break, where they can check their phone for one minute, every 15 minutes,” he said. “Over time, you can increase it to 20, 25. And within a couple of weeks, you can get them to go 30 minutes without needing it.”