Dividing attention in the classroom affects the ability to retain information

Student using a smartphone in class

Study reveals that dividing attention between a laptop or a cell phone and class time affects long-term retention.

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In previous decades it was frowned upon to divide attention between the class time and any other activity; respect in  implied keeping silence and avoiding any distraction. Currently, the same willingness is required, but technology has transformed the interaction in the classroom. For example, it is common for a student to answer a WhatsApp message while analyzing an equation written on the blackboard.

Academics from Rutgers University conducted a study to demonstrate that learning loses effectiveness when students focus on different things at the same time.

Researchers analyzed the performance of 118 psychology students with the same teacher, the same academic program and in the same environment. Students were allowed to use their smartphones and laptops for half of the class days and were forbidden to use them throughout the other half. Learners took daily questionnaires and periodic exams. Test scores were significantly lower for all students on the days that technology was allowed.

The use of devices did not interfere in the development of the classes; neither did it diminish the comprehension of the topics addressed. However, it significantly affected the performance of the students in exams.

Researchers stated that paying attention to a laptop or a cell phone during class affected the long-term retention of the lessons. In addition, academics suggested that it is necessary to evaluate the use of technology in class.

Although new generations are accustomed to technology, devices such as smartphones or laptops demand multitasking skills. Therefore, it is necessary to study, regulate and better integrate their use in classrooms and in online academic activities.

If you want to know more on this subject or want to delve into the details of the methodology of this study, you can read the report here.