Tweet tweet: How distracting are mobile phones in class?

A new study in Communication Education examines the effects of texting, Twitter, and message content on student learning. Participants in the study were 145 undergraduate students enrolled in communication classes at a large university in the US. After completing a brief screening questionnaire, students were randomly assigned to one of several study groups: a control group who did not use their phones, an experimental group who received text messages during class either related or unrelated to lecture content, or an experimental group who posted tweets either related or unrelated to lecture content. Furthermore, the groups were broken down into a high-distraction texting group (message every 30 seconds) or a low-distraction texting group (message every 60 seconds), or a high-distraction Twitter group (post a tweet every 30 seconds) or a low-distraction Twitter group (post a tweet every 60 seconds). During class, while the messages and tweets were being sent and received, students were instructed to take notes as they watched a 12-minute video lecture, and then they were tested on the content.

Results showed that the control group and relevant-message groups earned a 10–17% higher letter grade, scored 70% higher on recalling information, and scored 50% higher on note-taking than students who composed tweets or responded to irrelevant messages. Sending/receiving messages unrelated to class content negatively impacted learning and note-taking, while related messages did not appear to have a significant negative impact.

Source: Mobile Phones in the Classroom: Examining the Effects of Texting, Twitter, and Message Content on Student Learning (2015), Communication Education.

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