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Study: Using devices in classrooms is counterproductive

According to a new US study, those who use devices a classroom study aid are actually impacting their ability to retain information.

According to new research, students who use smartphones during lectures are less able to retain course material over the long term.

“Many dedicated students think they can divide their attention in the classroom without harming their academic success – but we found an insidious effect on exam performance and final grades,” lead researcher Arnold Glass told Rutgers Today.

To come to their conclusion, researchers tracked the performance of two groups of psychology students. The course was identical for both groups of students, but only one group was allowed to use electronic devices during the lectures; the other wasn’t. The rub was that it seemed to make a crucial difference in final grades.

The results illustrated that devices had no effect on the ability to answer questions about the material taught that same day. Conversely, it did seem to make students perform worse on end-of-year examinations. According to the study, dividing your attention can hurt your long-term retention abilities because you ultimately spend less mental resources as actually answering the questions in the quiz.

“This finding demonstrates for the first time that the main effect of divided attention in the classroom is not an immediate effect of selection or switching on comprehension but a long-term effect of divided attention on retention,” the researchers wrote.

Glass suggested that teachers warn students of the counterproductive effects electronics can bring to the classroom.

“To help manage the use of devices in the classroom, teachers should explain to students the damaging effect of distractions on retention – not only on themselves, but for the whole class,” he said.

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