This study will hurt reading. No, really. Why? It shows that students think it is instructors’ responsibility to ensure they don’t surf the web in class, according to a new study. So, dear teacher you’d better be entertaining enough. It seems Neil Postman was right after all?
From the press release:
In a recent mixed-method study, researchers from the University of Waterloo surveyed 478 undergraduates and 36 instructors on their perception of technology use in class.
The survey found that nine per cent of students thought course materials that could be seen on other students’ laptops were distracting, whereas 49 per cent thought that non-course materials on other students’ screens were distracting.
Although most students used technology in class to keep up with the course, some also used it to catch up on other classes, or because they felt bored and not engaged in the classroom. Students felt strongly that it is their right to use technology as they see fit, since they are adults paying for their education.
“While students felt that it was their choice to use the technology, they saw it as the instructors’ responsibility to motivate them not to use it,” says co-author Elena Neiterman, a School of Public Health and Health Systems professor.
Instructors saw technology as useful for providing accessible education, but it was also distracting for them: 68 percent were bothered by the use of phones in the classroom. Only 32 percent were bothered by the use of laptops and tablets, however, probably because they assume that laptops and tablets are used by students for class work. Some instructors also reported that off-task technology not only affected student learning, but also hindered their own ability to teach effectively.
“Some students said that instructors need to be more entertaining to keep students engaged in the classroom, but this a big ask, given that we are not employed in the entertainment industry,” says Neiterman. “There is also a question of what we are preparing our students for: If we are training them for future employment, we might need to teach them to focus even if the class is ‘boring.'”
The majority of instructors understood that banning technology in class is not an answer.
“Technology makes education accessible for students with disabilities, and many instructors use online tools such as Ted Talks and YouTube videos in class,” says Neiterman. “Our students use technology to take notes — students today don’t even learn cursive in school. ”
She added that banning technology in the classroom would not be lawful because it would expose students who use technology to accommodate a disability. Even if it were possible, however, it is not feasible. “A ban means policing,” says Neiterman. “With larger class sizes, who is going to police students to ensure that they do not use technology?”
Abstract of the study:
The widespread use of technological devices in an academic classroom brought with it many learning opportunities, but also posed a challenge of handling the off-task technology use in class. The literature on this topic is growing, but we still know relatively little about students’ and instructors’ perceptions regarding the off-task technology use in class. This paper addressed this gap by examining (1) how do students and instructors perceive technology in the classroom, and (2) who do they believe should be responsible for minimizing off-task technology use in class? Analyzing data from a mixed-method study with students and instructors in a Canadian university, we show that while students acknowledged that the off-task technology use can be distracting, they considered it a matter of personal autonomy, which can only be regulated when it creates distractions for others. The instructors had a more complex view and posed some challenging questions about the relationship between student engagement and technological distractions, the impact of technology on learning process, and the responsibility of educators in higher education. In conclusion, we reflect on some of the questions that ought to be considered when handling the off-task technology in an academic classroom.
Oh, and for the people who are to young to catch the reference in the title of this post: