Cell­phones lower aca­demic re­sults

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - NEWS - LUKE FOLB

CELL­PHONES have be­come an in­dis­pens­able part of the younger gen­er­a­tion’s lives with stu­dents con­stantly en­gag­ing in dig­i­tal ac­tiv­i­ties and multi-task­ing on their so­cial and aca­demic work. They have adapted so quickly that they are con­stantly me­dia-mul­ti­task­ing by switch­ing be­tween mul­ti­ple me­dia to stay con­nected.

Dr Daniel le Roux, a lec­turer at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity, has been con­duct­ing re­search into stu­dents’ cell­phone us­age dur­ing lec­tures.

He said that while it is im­por­tant for lec­tur­ers to in­cor­po­rate dig­i­tal as­pects into their teach­ing for “blended learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences” by us­ing videos, pod­casts and so­cial me­dia, many stu­dents will use it as an op­por­tu­nity for re­cre­ation.

“Stu­dents have a fear of miss­ing out and so if you think they are fol­low­ing the lec­ture slides or en­gag­ing in de­bates about the ma­te­rial you are mis­taken. When stu­dents use their phones dur­ing lec­tures they do it to com­mu­ni­cate with friends, en­gage in so­cial net­works, watch YouTube videos or just browse around the web to fol­low their in­ter­ests,” he said.

He adds that there are two pri­mary rea­sons that this sort of be­hav­iour is detri­men­tal to a stu­dent’s aca­demic per­for­mance.

“The first is that when we en­gage in multi-task­ing our per­for­mance on the pri­mary task suf­fers. Mak­ing sense of lec­ture con­tent is very dif­fi­cult when you switch at­ten­tion to your phone ev­ery five min­utes.”

“The sec­ond rea­son is that it harms stu­dents’ abil­ity to con­cen­trate on any par­tic­u­lar thing for an ex­tended pe­riod of time,” Le Roux said.

“They be­come ac­cus­tomed to switch­ing to al­ter­na­tive streams of stim­uli at in­creas­ingly short in­ter­vals.

“The mo­ment the lec­ture fails to en­gage or be­comes dif­fi­cult to fol­low, the phones come out.”

He said that stu­dents seek the in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion that so­cial me­dia gives them over the long-term goal of aca­demic suc­cess.

“Grat­i­fi­ca­tion wins over grit,” he added.

Aware­ness of the trend has prompted some lec­tur­ers to de­clare their classes “de­vice­free” in or­der to cul­ti­vate en­gage­ment and crit­i­cal think­ing dur­ing their lec­tures.

“No one can deny that mo­bile com­put­ing de­vices make our lives eas­ier and more fun in a myr­iad of ways.

“In the face of all the con­nect­ed­ness and en­ter­tain­ment they of­fer, we should be mind­ful of the costs.”

Le Roux said that ed­u­ca­tional pol­icy mak­ers need to pay par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the im­pli­ca­tions of their de­ci­sions with a greater aware­ness of the dy­nam­ics be­tween tech­nol­ogy use and the cog­ni­tive func­tions that en­able us to learn.

‘Mo­ment the lec­ture fails, the phones come out’

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