Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Ban Cellphone Use In Classrooms?

First of all, let me state my policy on the use of electronic devices (mobile phones, tablets, laptop computers, etc.) in my classrooms. I do not have an outright ban (other than during exams and quizzes) during class, but they can't be use in an intrusive manner that disrupts the running of the class. So no making phone calls, etc. So far, I haven't had any issues to change that policy. Many of my colleagues do have an outright ban on the use of these devices during class.

Now, a few weeks ago, I came across this paper. They studied students who used these devices for non-class related purposes during class. They found that the distraction of these devices, in the end, affects the average class grade that the student received at the end of the course (they were psychology courses). The distracted students, on average, scored half a grade lower than those that are in classes that ban the use of these devices for non-class related purposes.

But what is also surprising is that there was a collateral damage done onto students who were in the same class as these distracted students, but they themselves did not use these devices during class.

Furthermore, when the use of electronic devices was allowed in class, performance on the unit exams and final exams was poorer for students who did not use electronic devices during the class as well as for the students who did use an electronic device. This is the first-ever finding in an actual classroom of the social effect of classroom distraction on subsequent exam performance. The effect of classroom distraction on  exam performance confirms the laboratory finding of the social effect of distraction (Sana et al.,2013). 
 So this is like second-hand smoking.

The good thing about this is that, I can now tell my students that, while I allow their use in the class during lessons, there is evidence that if they choose to use them, their grades may suffer. I may even upload this paper to the Learning Management System. However, because of the collateral damage that might be done to other students who do not use these devices during class, I am seriously rethinking my policy, and am considering imposing an outright ban on the non-class related use of these devices during my lessons.

If you teach, what is your experience with this?



iDyn said...

I am a student on physics major and I do use smartphone during classes. When it feels boring or I cannot follow up on complex topic I automatically take smartphone to do something. Without realizing that I lose about 5-10 minutes which is long enough to lose the way of the class and I fall back on the material. Sometimes if I find something in smartphone that I think is worth to share sometimes I call my friend sitting near me to show it to him. Most of the time I try to notice if he is listening or is boring as me, but not always and I may distract him from the class.
My grades are not good, but I do not consider using the smartphone during classes as major reason, although I do not deny its negative affect. Even if I use it to search for some relevant topic during class, which may be useful (but it is not since class do not wait for me to complete my search on the question that I look up).
I think that I would like to see a teacher that bans using smartphones during classes, since in my humble opinion as a student it definitely will help me to focus on the material.

Peeter Joot said...

I've been taking undergrad physics (and now grad) courses part time for a number of years, and take my notes in latex on my laptop (having worked as a computer programmer for 20 years, I got fast enough typing to do so).

In my specific case, where I'm using the laptop specifically for class tasks, I do still notice the cost, but I think a large part of that cost is the fact that I am taking notes at all, instead of just paying attention. Eons ago in my full time undergrad days (when I was younger, sharper, and faster mentally) I did not take any notes, and that worked really well for me, although this presumes having a good text to refer to after the fact.

There are definitely times that paying full attention (and not having a stenographer role) during class would be more valuable, but I also come out with great notes and there's a lot of learning that I do making them coherent after class. Would I be better spending that time doing more problems? -- perhaps.

This makes me wonder, independent of device use, if there is a study on the costs of note-taking vs. paying-full-attention.

ZapperZ said...

@Peeter Joot: Note that the study focuses on the use of these devices that are not related to the class work. I consider taking notes using your laptop as related to class, so this does not constitute as the "distraction" that was being addressed in the study.

The type of distraction that is relevant here is more of what iDyn was doing, i.e. checking phone for other things and losing track of the class lesson.