Persistence of Multitasking Distraction Following the Use of Smartphone-based Clickers

Sihui Ma
Virginia Tech

Daniel Steger
Virginia Tech

Peter Doolittle
Virginia Tech

Andrew Lee
Virginia Tech

Laura Griffin
Virginia Tech

Amanda Stewart
Virginia Tech

Clickers are used to improve student learning, motivation, and engagement. Smartphones can serve as clickers; however, instructional use of smartphones may lead to students multitasking between instructional and alternative media. This study investigates whether students are distracted after instructional use of smartphones in a lecture-based classroom. Outcomes were assessed through both self-reported smartphone use and in-class observations of actual smartphone use. Students were observed covertly for 5 minutes following instructional use of smartphones to determine whether multi-tasking distraction occurred and/or persisted following the instructional use of smartphones. Even though the self-reported data indicate that students disagreed to somewhat disagreed that smartphone use was a distraction, our findings show that 42% of students began to use their smartphones for non-instructional purposes immediately following the instructional episode, and 28% of students persisted in this behavior five minutes after the instructional episode ended. The observations contradicted the students’ self-reported survey responses, thus emphasizing the need to critically consider self-reported outcomes related to multi-tasking distraction in the classroom. Policies or practices to limit multi-tasking distraction due to non-instructional use of smartphones in the classroom should be considered in cases where smartphones are being used for instructional purposes.

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