August 8th, 2016

Smart Phones, Laptops, and Their Effect on Your Smartness

Kashif Shaikh, MD

Kashif Shaikh, MD, is the 2016-17 Chief Resident in Internal Medicine at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine.

“Please don’t spoil the movie with your own soundtrack.” Remember hearing this message before the beginning of a movie in a theater and how most people turn their devices on silent to watch the movie? The cost of the movie ticket is considerably less than the cost of medical education, but I wonder if learners consider this phenomenon when they walk into their classrooms. Is the habit of smart phones in our daily lives so engrained that we aren’t even aware of the distraction? Or is it that the learners get distracted unintentionally while they are looking for answers?

Recently, after giving several lectures to medical students and residents, I noted that most people in my audience checked their phones at some point. Noticeably, some attendees didn’t have their phones on silent and answered their phones while walking out of the lecture. People commonly check emails, browse the internet, and send text messages during lectures and meetings. Why are learners so distracted by technology, and what is its effect on learning?

I found a few papers on the effects of smart phones on learning:

  • A 2013 study by Kuznekoff and Titsworth shows how mobile phone usage affects student learning. Researchers concluded that students who were not accessing their cell phones wrote down 62% more information in their notes, took more detailed notes, were able to recall more detailed information from the lecture, and scored a full letter grade and a half higher on a multiple choice test than those students who were actively using their cell phones.laptop computer
  • In another 2013 study by Sana et al., the investigators concluded that laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. The primary task was learning in the classroom, and the secondary task was completing unrelated online tasks. Notably, nearby peers scored even lower than the students who were multitasking.

Technology, of course, has pros and cons. Some of the pros: Most researchers in the education field talk about finding balance, wherein learners use technology to maximize their learning experience, form long-term memories, and acquire  knowledge. Insight and awareness is always helpful and is the first step in technology etiquette. We also cannot disregard the value of technology in teaching (especially for disabled learners).

We need more research on this subject to examine positive and negative consequences, weigh the risks and benefits, and make an informed decision on the use of technology to maximize learning. What rules would you lay down for leaners on the use of smartphones, tablets, and laptops if you were teaching in the classroom?

2 Responses to “Smart Phones, Laptops, and Their Effect on Your Smartness”

  1. Max Voysey says:

    I just wanted to say . . . hold on a minute, incoming call. . . . .yeah, well you too buddy.. So, like as I was saying I don’t know what all this fuss is about. I’m smarter than my phone, so there.

  2. This very much true. Smartphones have made students less attentive in class
    I see many students bending down the desk to answer call. Sending sms in class.
    I think we should try making rules to prohibit cell phones in class.

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