A new study has evaluated the impact of different types of messaging on the ability of a student to take notes in class. The study showed that those who used mobile devices in class took notes of poorer quality, as they were detracking from another cognitive process.
As mobile technology has become more widespread, however, some instructors have begun to include texting or digital technology in their lesson plans, which beg the question: Is it still distracting to students? Can students reply to and send messages about class content without being distracted?
The researchers tested students using mobile phones in class to respond to messages that were related or unrelated to classroom material; additionally, the researchers varied the form of the messages (responding to another message or composing an original one) and the frequency of the texts.
Students who replied to messages relevant to class material scored higher on multiple choice tests than students who replied to messages that were unrelated to the class. The study authors conclude from this that sending or receiving relevant messages may allow students to engage in similar processes as those that occur during note taking.
Specifically, relevant messages may allow students to encode lecture content in a manner similar to the processes that occur during note taking. Students who tweeted or sent messages with higher frequency on content not related to the class took lower quality notes than those who tweeted less frequently on non-classroom related subjects.
The study suggests that texting about content external to the lesson, or texting at a very high frequency, can, indeed, interrupt learning. In addition to helping guide campus and classroom mobile device policies, this study contributes to the growing body of research on how the brain processes information when confronted with multiple, simultaneous sources of input.