January 27, 2023

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Students did better when they had to leave their cell phones in the hallway

Students did better when they had to leave their cell phones in the hallway

Research

A smartphone is something that the vast majority of people depend on in their daily lives. But what does that have to say for how one approaches learning? A research group in the United States wanted to find an answer to this.

At an unnamed higher education institution in New York, researchers gathered four classes with a total of 108 students shortly after the start of the semester in January 2020.

Two of the classes were asked to go through the lessons as normal, while the students in the other two classes had to leave their mobile phones behind before entering the lecture hall.

The arrangement lasted six weeks. All students were interviewed before and after the experiment, and all of them also answered a questionnaire comparing their condition before and after the experiment.

More discoveries

The results of the trial have now been published in Articles database Innovative higher educationAnd it turned out, among other things, that students who left their mobile phones outside the classroom showed a better understanding of the course material afterward, and had a higher sense of interest, as well as lower feelings of anxiety.

– But at first, the concern about not having a mobile phone near you was quite palpable. Many of the students were actually upset, but I think they were stressed simply that the phone wasn’t nearby, says New York Institute of Technology psychology professor Melissa Huey, Times Higher Education.

Huey is one of the lecturers who taught all four classes during the time the experiment occurred, and is also part of the research group behind the study.

“Part of the motivation to try this was to disprove those who constantly encourage their students to use smartphones and laptops while studying,” says Huey.

Back to old habits

– I support the use of new technology in the classroom and use all available resources to share information with students. But the classroom itself, in my opinion, should be a place of real learning, that is, a closed environment where you focus one hundred percent on the material and critical thinking.

Together with the other researchers and teachers behind the study, she then saw that many students fell back into their old habits, despite the fact that they had already received evidence that they had learned more without bringing their phones into class.

—but many continued down the same path without their cell phones, says one researcher.

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