This research originated from student rep feedback about the disruptive impact in large lectures that students who are “digitally distracted” have on those students focussed on learning. Wanting to explore this phenomenon further and to propose mitigation strategies, the project involved staff from the university’s Educational Development and Enhancement Unit, Business School and Law School as well as student partners. It looked at the impact of mobile devices in the classroom from several perspectives:
1) Through focus groups and surveys of staff from both schools, we captured the experiences of lecturers delivering to “digitally distracted” students. Research conducted from the learner perspective acknowledges distraction as “a feature of the communication technologies available to students” (Jones and Healing, 2010 cited in Jones and Shao, 2011) but how does this impact on the lecturer’s delivery rather than students’ learning?
2) Through focus groups and surveys with students, we gathered student views on their own digital distraction related to having mobile technology in the classroom as well as how they get distracted by other students’ usage of mobile devices in class.
3) An experiment investigating the learning gain of students with and without mobiles in a controlled setting.
The two participating schools had different approaches to the issue of digital distraction: from the “let’s discover together how we can harness the potential of smartphones in learning” (Wheeler, 2015, p9) approach in one school to another school banning the use of mobiles in sessions. This project explored how staff could better incorporate mobile phones and tablets in large lectures so that students could use these positively for active learning rather than a case of “turn on, tune in, drop out”. This paper will look at the themes emerging from the data, focusing on initial findings and solution emerging.
As well as furthering debates on digital distraction of learners, it is envisaged that outcomes of this project could result in: firstly, purchasing new technological solutions in the schools to enhance the TEL environment; secondly, shaping school level T&L policy on the use of mobile devices in class; thirdly, increasing staff awareness of different pedagogical approaches around embedding technology in the classroom.
Carr, N (2011). The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember. London: Atlantic Books.
Greenfield, S. (2014). Mind Change: How digital technologies are leaving their mark on our brains. London: Rider.
Jones, Chris and Shao, Binhui (2011). The net generation and digital natives: implications for higher education. Higher Education Academy, York.
Linda Stone blog (2009). Continuous Partial Attention [blog entry] 6th June. Available from: https://lindastone.net/qa/continuous-partial-attention [Accessed 6th June 2016].
Prensky, M (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants : Part 1, On the Horizon, 9(5), 1 – 6.
Wheeler, S. (2015). Learning with ‘e’s: educational theory and practice in the digital age. Carmarthen: Crown House.
Interesting question. I am currently working on a lecture capture project and the fact that some students are “digitally distracted” has been mentioned few times.