It seems in the last few weeks, the topic of mobile devices and college students has come to my attention frequently. There has been quite a bit of discussion online and on college campuses about the distraction factor of student cell phone usage (i.e. texting, instead of listening to the instructor).
The first wave came from an email I received from the department chair at The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University. His email was proposing a design wide faculty meeting based on the feedback he received from instructors about “technology distractions”. Observations were made that students are missing key points, due to laptop and cell phone usage during class.
The second wave came from an article on Wired about the very same issue. In this case, the private college took part in a research study that introduces iPhones and iPod touches into the curriculum. The study was a two-fold experiment. The students could choose a device to utilize in their studies, and the instructors must integrate the devices into their curriculum’s. The goal here being to reach the students with the tools that they already are accustomed to. The college had fantastic results. The experiment was a success.
The third wave, and connector for me, is my experience teaching design to 16-17 year old pre-college students. Also known as the future undergraduate design students of the world.
I noticed at the beginning of my class in September, the abundant texting going on with my students. The first thought in my mind was, ‘wait, this could be a distraction problem’. As I began to think about this situation, I decided not to bring up the topic of their phone usage during class, and took the opportunity to observe their behavior. There are some interesting results from my observations.
I found out of all the students (ten total) that one or two may have had a distraction issue when texting. The other students could very easily multi-task and take part in discussion. I also polled the class about their experiences in their high school about their texting. The consensus was in each high school, there was some sort of reprimand for (getting caught) texting during class. These reprimands ranged from withholding of the device, or contacting parents, or detention. They also gave me some great insight on how to text message friends while keeping the phone concealed.
Also, most students could text without even looking at the phone.
So, what does this say? Are students distracted by texting? Or is it time for a fundamental shift in pedagogies. The students in my class answered questions with fast response times, and we’re able to take direction with ease. The model featured in the Wired article above, is just one of many examples of colleges and professors asking critical questions about their teaching model.
What is the answer to mobile tech in the classroom? Maybe a good start, is to ask the students about what they know.Share