Over the last years, technology has become increasingly more integrated into classrooms. For a long time, students have been bringing their smartphones to the classroom, which has frequently sparked debates about whether smartphones should or should not be allowed in the classroom. A recent study by Kuznekoff et al. investigated the effects of students using their phone to (1) respond to queries posed by someone else, (2) create new messages, and (3) the frequency of messaging.
To accomplish this, the students were divided into four groups in which they either had to (1) respond to messages of relevance to the lesson, (2) respond to messages that were irrelevant to the lesson (3) create messages of relevance to the lesson; or (4) create messages that were irrelevant to the lesson. All students watched a 12-minute video lecture whilst taking notes on it. After the lecture, the students took a free recall test, a multiple-choice test, and their notes were also graded for quality. The control group was composed of students who did not have any mobile phones at all.
Overall, students in the control group and students who responded to relevant messages did better than the others on all three measures. Students who created relevant messages did just as well on the test, but they also took poorer-quality notes, while students who responded to or created irrelevant messages did worse on the test and note-taking.
What can explain these results? The researchers suggest that creating messages is a more cognitively intense task than simply responding to messages – and thus distracted students more, even if the content of the message was related to the lecture. However, they also suggest that both sending and receiving relevant messages may involve similar process as those that occur during note-taking, allowing students to perform well on the free-recall and multiple choice tests.
The results lead the authors to ‘caution against rushing to integrate texting and Twitter into the classroom.’ Since students who engaged with relevant messages did not outperform the control group, while those who engaged with irrelevant messages underperformed, there appears to be limited benefits of allowing mobile phones in the classroom even when they are used as intended – and merely downsides if they are not used as intended.
Kuznekoff, J. H., Munz, S., & Titsworth, S. (2015). Mobile phones in the classroom: Examining the effects of texting, Twitter, and message content on student learning. Communication Education, 64(3), 344-365.