‘The Impact of Mobile Phone Usage on Student Learning’ by Jeffrey H. Kuznekoff & Scott Titsworth in (2013) 62(3) Communication Education 233 reveals that – whodathunkit – texting in class by students might just have some impact on their learning. The authors comment –
in this study, we examined the impact of mobile phone usage, during class lecture, on student learning. Participants in three different study groups (control, low-distraction, and high-distraction) watched a video lecture, took notes on that lecture, and took two learning assessments after watching the lecture. Students who were not using their mobile phones wrote down 62% more information in their notes, took more detailed notes, were able to recall more detailed information from the lecture, and scored a full letter grade and a half higher on a multiple choice test than those students who were actively using their mobile phones. Theoretical and pedagogical implications are discussed.
In modern classrooms, instructors face many challenges as they compete for students’ attention among a variety of communication stimuli. Rapid growth of mobile computing, including smart phones and tablets, presents a double-edged problem: along with previously unimaginable access to information come previously unfore- seen distractions. Of wide concern to many instructors is the potential distraction caused by students using their mobile devices to text, play games, check Facebook, tweet, or engage in other activities available to them in a rapidly evolving digital terrain. That concern has potential merit; recent statistics from the Pew Foundation show that the median number of daily texts for older teens rose from 60 in 2009 to 100 in 2011 (Lenhart, 2012). Moreover, 64% of teens who own cell phones have texted during class, even in schools where cell phones are technically banned (Lenhart, Ling, Campbell, & Purcell, 2010). Those texts potentially come at the expense of learning, as texting during class reduces students’ ability to self-regulate and give sustained attention to classroom tasks (Wei, Wang, & Klausner, 2012). Cell phones, and the broader array of digital mobile devices, pose unique communication challenges for both users and those with whom they interact. Some critics argue that texting and other digital communication behavior potentially diminish key social skills like effective listening. As one commentator noted, ‘‘We think of phones as a communication tool, but the truth is they may be just the opposite’’ (Skenazy, 2009, np). Other views suggest that people are adapting to new communication norms in an increasingly digital world, learning to quickly attend to, process, and respond to multiple and sometimes simultaneous messages (Davidson, 2011). Given the many possible ways that digital communication tools will continue to influence practices of teaching and learning (Schuck & Aubusson, 2010), instructional communication scholars should enact programmatic research to understand how these tools impact classroom communication and subsequent learning outcomes.
The present study builds on past research by examining whether texting or posting to a social network site has negative impacts on students’ note-taking behaviors and subsequent performance on exams. Participants took part in simulated classroom conditions where they watched a recorded lecture, took notes over the lecture, and were then tested over lecture content. There were three conditions in the study: a control group and two experimental groups. The control group simply watched the lecture, took notes on the lecture, and answered exam questions over lecture content. The other two groups engaged in the same activities as the control group, but also took part in simulated texting/Facebook interactions during the lecture; one group had a low frequency of texts/posts, and another had a high frequency. By using simulated text messages and Facebook posts, the objective of the study was to determine what effects, if any, these distractions had on student learning.