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Featured Cellphone Distraction in Classroom Can Lead to Lower Grades

  1. Jul 31, 2018 #1

    ZapperZ

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    I wasn't sure if this should be in General Discussion, or in this forum. However, since it affects students and it depends on the classroom policy of the instructor, I thought it should be in here.

    This is something many of us instructors have to deal with, something that was never an issue when I was still in college. Students now come to class equipped with notebook laptop, tablets, and of course, the ubiquitous cellphones. Different instructors have different policy on the use of the electronics, ranging from an outright ban, to "I don't care if you use these during class session as long as you don't distract or annoy other fellow students".

    The central issue here is whether the use of these devices that is not related to the lesson, i.e. these devices being a distraction during class, affects the performance of the students. This new study out of Rutgers University looked into just that.

    So not only are students using these devices during class tend to get a lower grade than those who didn't, but students in the same class who did NOT use these devices during class seem to also suffer from a collateral damage. It's like 2nd hand smoke! How nasty is that?!

    The full paper can be found here.

    Now note that these are the use of such electronic devices that are not related to the lesson at hand. Certainly, there are many instructors who do use these devices as part of their lessons, and these, presumably, are not a distraction to the students since they are part of the classroom lesson. I have used PhET applets during class with the students to illustrates many lessons on various topics, so my students do being their computers/tablets/phones to class.

    So the outcome from this study is causing the question on whether these devices should be banned from classrooms, as in they should not be used during lessons until they are part of the lessons. The one good thing about this study is that I can point it to my students, and tell them the consequences of being distracted by their devices, but then let THEM decide for themselves if they are willing to take the risk. After all, they are now adults, and as part of being independent and growing up, they will have to assume the responsibility of their actions.

    Zz.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 31, 2018 #2
    Wouldn't your laissez-faire policy of letting students decide on cell phone use counter the desirability of a distraction free classroom.
     
  4. Jul 31, 2018 #3

    ZapperZ

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    Not entirely. I let them use cell phone but not for phone conversation, etc. They still have to silent all their devices while in class, but it is not a total ban on usage of such devices.

    But this study seems to indicate that other students who are not using such devices while in class may also be passively affected by it. So this is making me rethink my policy.

    Zz.
     
  5. Aug 2, 2018 #4
    Cell phone use is considered a no no in the corporate world especially in meeting (including working lunches) or at the very least not cool and millenials are prime offender said a 2013 USC Marschall School of Business study. https://news.usc.edu/56704/is-it-smart-to-use-your-phone-at-that-meeting/

    Forbidding cell phone use in the class room should help prepare future workers for a more successful careers. It would seem that forbidding the use in HS will help them prepare for a more successful experience in college. And keeping cell phone out of the hands of middle schoolers will help in HS.

    In thinking about cell phone use if it is hard to control oneself in the classroom where rules usually frown on their use how do they affect the study habits of students out of class. We use to think TV was bad.
     
  6. Aug 2, 2018 #5

    CWatters

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    I have twins age 16. Until recently their school required phones to be on silent and kept out of sight during lessons. I can't imagine how teachers could accept anything else.

    They have recently gone one step further and banned the use of phones at break times and lunch times. They are concerned some children were spending the whole time playing games and their communication skills were suffering.

    The penalty for breaking the rules is confiscation until the end of the day.

    We fully support the original policy but the recent change has caused issues as it's no longer possible for them to contact us during the daytime to discuss pick up times or changes to planned activities.

    Next term they move up to the "6th form" where they are allowed to leave school during free periods. I'm expecting the recent change will mean some children leaving the school grounds just so they can use their phones, then returning for lessons.
     
  7. Aug 3, 2018 #6
    My experience is that most students in the 14-21 age range are not capable of self-regulation in how the devices are used if use is allowed in class. They won't just keep the app up that is related to class, they will check their texts (and other instant messaging apps) and begin surfing their favorite sites. Since I view myself (as the teacher) as accountable to the taxpayer and other stakeholders who are paying me to provide the best opportunity possible for student learning, my approach is a complete ban on cell phones in the classroom as too big a distraction.

    Has anyone here had teaching jobs where student cell phone use would be an acceptable excuse if half the students failed the class?
     
  8. Aug 3, 2018 #7

    ZapperZ

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    The reason why I did not have an outright ban on the use of these devices (phones, tablets, notebook laptops) in my classroom (General physics classes at college level) is that I often put a lot of material on our Learning Management Systems (Canvas, Blackboard, etc.). Often, these students do not print these documents or go to the links I gave them before class. So when I make references to them, they often needed to go to these things during class.

    Now, one can argue that these are academic-related activities and was not considered as a "distraction" in this study, but it is still the use of these devices and my students were allowed to use them during class because I did not have an outright ban on their usage. I only put a restriction on how they used these devices during class. I did not consider these activities as "lesson-related", because to me, lesson-related means the use of, say, the PhET applets during class as an active part of the lesson, which I have done.

    I know of other instructors in the dept. who have an outright ban policy on these electronic devices, and I fully understand the reason behind it. But considering how I run my classes and do my lessons, I am hesitant to impose such outright ban. And I think, with this study, I can draw the students' attention to the possible harm they might inflict on themselves and their fellow students if they choose to use their devices for other purposes during class (I will definitely upload this paper at the beginning of the next session to the LMS).

    Zz.
     
  9. Aug 3, 2018 #8

    Mark44

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    I've recently started teaching again, after a 14 year hiatus during which I worked in the private sector. When I was teaching before ('97 and before), cell phones/smart phones weren't such a "thing," so weren't a distraction problem. When I started teaching again in 2014, I was concerned that these devices would be a problem in class. So far, they haven't been a problem.
     
  10. Aug 3, 2018 #9

    ZapperZ

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    But you do need to establish a policy for what would happen when they do become a problem. For example, let's say the students need to use calculators during an exam. Will you let them use the calculator app with their phones/tablets? Think about it. This is the device in which (i) they could use to connect to the internet and possibly seek answers for the exam, and/or (ii) contact other people to ask about something during the exam.

    I'm not sure about your school, but where I teach, the "Syllabus" that I hand out at the beginning of the course must have not only the topics and dates that they will be covered, but also the in-class policy, grading, etc. This is where instructors have to indicate their policy on the use of cell phones, tablets, etc. during class. At least for me, it isn't something that I can make up as I go along, because students will complain.

    Zz.
     
  11. Aug 3, 2018 #10

    Mark44

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    I teach programming classes, so each student has a desktop PC, although some do their work on laptops. During exams, the policy is usually no computers, no laptops, or if part of the exam is a programming exercise, the policy disallows using a browser to seach on stackexchange, etc.

    Yes, that's the policy at the two schools I've taught at recently (community colleges in the Seattle area). We do have a disclaimer at the bottom that the best efforts have been put into making the syllabus as accurate as possible, but some changes might be necessary during the quarter. Of course, if there are any, they are announced in advance. I don't recall having to make any changes, though.
     
  12. Aug 28, 2018 #11

    HAYAO

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    From what I've seen, about 10% of people use cellphones during meetings and lectures, and those who do often did not perform very well. I'll be absolutely honest that I have also used cellphones during meetings and lectures, although I justify myself that it was related to the lecture and was necessary because I didn't want to stop the class/meeting.

    This often comes down to individual's conscience. I don't think anyone genuinely believe that doing unrelated stuff on their electronics during a class/lecture/meeting is justified. Some people still do it anyway because they want to, and that is the kind of conscience they have. Meanwhile, I genuinely believe that using electronics for the purpose of helping me take the class (looking up terms that I forgot, concepts that I learned long time ago, constants, etc) is justified, although should be kept at minimum. That is my personal opinion, and my professors in my lab showed some understanding to that.


    I personally like the "do whatever you want as long as you don't disturb others" approach.
     
  13. Aug 29, 2018 #12
    I totally agree that. Although I am only 13 and these problems aren’t as serious as yours in my school since our school’s policy is to ban them completely. But there will always be smugglers bringing them in,and junior high school students(i.e, my classmates) are terrible at restricting themselves.The fact that a handful of students are playing online games around you during lessons are really annoying.
     
  14. Aug 29, 2018 #13

    symbolipoint

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    Furthermore upon those,
    A professor at a college consulted with students individually about the topic information search project of each student. The professor used a smartphone for its wifi/internet search and webpage reading capability to compare and further analyze the discussions of details with the student. This was a stress for the professor and a slight reduction in possible interaction quality for the student - for nearly every student in the class. This was also seemingly a time waster since professor was consulting at one student at-a-time, since each project was different among the students. Meanwhile students in the class while not conferring with the professor had to sit and wait (and were permitted to talk among themselves quietly - nice people, so not really too much problem).

    Just a different but related example was all I wanted to say.
     
  15. Aug 29, 2018 #14

    symbolipoint

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    Once Upon A Time, no cellular phones were allowed nor expected in classrooms during instruction time.

    A little later, handheld electronic calculators were allowed for some kinds of Math and Sci classes but the more clever and fancier devices were either not allowed, or they were discouraged. In these cases, one was either cutting down his workload, or depending on needed skills to learn and use, cheating. Still, when cell phones became at least somewhat popular, NO CELLULAR PHONES TO BE USED IN CLASS!
     
  16. Aug 29, 2018 #15

    opus

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    Gotta say I’d be pretty frustrated if I couldnt use my iPad in class! It is an essential tool for my notes.

    I am a very visual learner and I use diagrams, colors, pictures, etc. Ideally I like to just be able to look at the page and know what its saying and what its about rather than reading a bunch of sentences (which has a tendency for things to get lost on the page). With an iPad this is much more feasible because I have all of the supplementary note taking tools at my finger tips. I used to have to carry around pounds of paper and binders and a swarm of supplies like a ruler, many colored pens, highlighters, etc and it sucked but those tools were essential for me.

    Not only has my iPad helped my back by taking 5 binders loaded with paper out of my backpack but it’s made my learning process much more efficient.

    As for cellphones, I keep mine in my backpack and my notifications are always off. Theyre a great technology but I dont see them having much use in a classroom.
     
  17. Aug 29, 2018 #16

    HAYAO

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    I think seeing posts like this makes me think that we are still at the time of transition from analog to digital, and that the issue presented here by the OP is going to be taken really seriously and will be heavily debated in educational institutes from now on (as a matter of fact it already started few years ago). I see that by the time my children enters college, almost everyone is going to be using tablet PCs.
     
  18. Aug 31, 2018 #17

    tech99

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    I read an article in The Times which says that executives at Google, Ebay, Yahoo, and Apple have sent their children to a school that does not allow phones and tablets in the classroom.
    The school says that it removes a distraction, removes a crutch (continuous reference to Google in class), and creates a space free of the incessant demands of social media.
    Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs limited screen time for their children.
    France is banning phones in the classroom from next year.
    At the school where I work, I have seen what I can only describe as addiction to computer games, often preventing learning entirely, and there is good evidence in other schools that violence decreases greatly if social media are not available. From 1 Sept electronic devices will be locked away during the day. Of course, computers will be used as required in IT classes and science etc.
    The Times concludes that in Silicon Valley they have seen the future, and are not quite ready to show it to their kids.
     
  19. Aug 31, 2018 #18
    Agree.In my school, there are only two extremes:
    • One that never uses phones, no matter what, even not learn new stuff through it. (5%)
    • Your case.(95%)
     
  20. Sep 2, 2018 #19

    HAYAO

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    First off, I want to explain that I don't necessarily disagree with you. However, your post describes a situation in grade school where children are not yet ready for things like responsibility and self-discipline. I am unsure how well that applies to under- and postgraduates.

    During my middle school days (during the time I lived in the US), 7th grade math class required that we students buy graphic calculators (Ti-94 plus silver edition if my memory serves me right). This was an extremely interesting experience for me. For those who have ever bought this thing, you probably know that Ti-94 comes with PC-calc connector where you can send/receive data from the PC, and that there are tons of games out there on the internet for this calculator.

    I'll be very honest that I played games on my free time. However, I would also note that I spent quite a long time programming on my calculator as well to help me solve problems on tests faster (and also make games). That helped me a lot during my PhD where I had to make programs on MATLAB, but there wasn't even one class on programming that was available to me during under- and postgraduate years (mandatory classes overlapped with programming class).


    I saw two extremes during my middle school years for those playing on the calculator. One would play games on his/her calculator even during class and terribly fail, or one would play games only during free time and do wonderfully in class. Latter type of students tend to have relatively strict parents where their children is well disciplined and understands responsibility. The former type of students tend to have rather lazy parents. The differences between honor and regular class was clear, where the former literally had no one playing on their calculators during class (and the teacher never warned us about it). Of course, I am definitely not saying all of them had strict/lazy parents, but the tendency was very clear to me. Sure this is a personal experience, but I think it has some legitimacy in it. By the way, I was one with the higher grades in the honor classes.

    Now if you go to college, the statistics change. Those who do not have certain amount of self-discipline and sense of responsibility do not enter college in the first place (there are always few, though). Fair portion of those who slacks off during classes will still study outside class. Adding the fact that 70% of the lecturers in my college was not very motivated in teaching their students (seems like a trend in most Japanese universities), it was perfectly rational to just study on your own instead of wasting time trying to comprehend disorganized mumbling. By the way I had high-average score during the time. A bad excuse is that I was financially very poor and had to work during my free time to afford myself (my parents denied signing my scholarships application because they hated me). To give you an idea of how poor I was, I lived off from garbage in the convenience store that I worked in. I still made it out in one piece.


    The OP is mainly concerned about college students (of course he may also have grade schools in mind), so how well your point applies to those in college is unknown to me.
     
  21. Sep 2, 2018 #20
    True.But somehow you should consider this: Not ever country’s college has the effect of wiping out students that aren’t responsible to themselves. Like in my case,Taiwan’s 99% of the high school students managed to find a college.Even leaving a blank test paper leads you to a college(Really) Which makes no statistical difference between high school and college.
     
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