Study: Use of digital devices in class affects students' long-term retention of information
- A new study conducted by researchers at Rutgers University reveals that students who are distracted by texts, games, or videos while taking lecture notes on digital devices are far more likely to have their long-term memory affected and to perform more poorly on exams, even if short-term memory is not impacted, EdSurge reports.
- Exam performance was not only poorer for students using the devices, but also for other students in classes that permitted the devices because of the distraction factor, the study found.
- After conducting the study, Arnold Glass, the lead researcher, changed his own policy and no longer allows his students to take notes on digital devices.
A nationally representative Gallup poll conducted in March showed that 42% of K-12 teachers feel that the use of digital devices in the classroom are “mostly helpful” for students, while only 28% feel they are “mostly harmful.” Yet 69% of those same teachers feel the devices have a harmful impact on student mental health and 55% feel they negatively affect student physical health. And the negative impact on education may be more than most teachers realize.
While digital devices can play a positive role in the classroom in terms of educational programs and apps, too much digital exposure — especially on devices that allow access to texting, games, and videos — can harm academic achievement. According to a 2016 study of college students, student waste about 20% of their class time for “non-class” purposes — texting, emailing, or using social media more than 11 times in a typical day. In K-12, increased dependence on digital devices often interferes with homework completion as well.
Though the new study focused on long-term retention, past studies have also shown that indicate a negative correlation between use of digital devices during class and exam scores. A 2015 study by the London School of Economics revealed that pupils in schools that banned cell phones performed better on exams and that the differences were most notable for low-performing students. Schools may need to take these factors into account when deciding on digital policies, whether it is to encourage responsible use of devices or banning them altogether.