Cellphones lower academic results
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’