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Cell Phones in Class: Your Grade Will Drop

Study Demonstrates How Cell Phone Use Can Lead to Lower Grades.

There’s bee a lot of discussion devoted to using cell phones: while driving, their annoyance in a theatre, and the rudeness of loudly talking on a cell phone in a crowd of people.  There’s even been research on “communifaking,” where someone pretends to be talking to someone on his or her cell phone so they appear important or can avoid talking to someone.

Cell Phone Use Can Cause 25% Drop in Grades

There is also research that students who use a cell phone while they are in class could see their grades drop by as much as 25 percent.

The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, suggested that using a cell phone in class is as distracting as using it while driving.

To prove their point, the researcher (who sometimes posed as a student in an undergraduate college class) conducted several experiments.  In some of the experiments they tested the effect different ring tones would have on students’ class work when compared to a situation where there was no cell phone ringing.  In these cases, the students performed poorly when cell phones rang (it didn’t matter what tone or song was played on the phone). 

In another experiment, the students were first warned that cell phone disruptions might happen.  In these cases they didn’t do as badly in their class work as when they were not informed of an upcoming cell phone disruption.  The experiments continued – measuring student response during lectures and in a surprise test.  In each case, cell phones ringing produced a clear effect in terms of student performance and how well they remembered the information they were given in the class.

Cell Phones Cause Students to Forget Information They Were Taught

In any setting where people are trying to acquire knowledge and trying to retain that information in some way, a distraction that may just seem like a common annoyance to people may have a really disruptive effect on their later retention of that information, say the researchers.  In fact, they found that when the students were subjected to the ringing of a cell phone, they scored up to 25 percent worse on a test on subject matter that was given to them before the cell phone started ringing.  Even the process of trying to turn off the cell phone (remember, the researcher often posed as a student in the class) distracted the students and had an effect on their test scores.

Many schools and colleges have rules and policies against using cell phones in class.  But, as anyone knows who has visited a high school or college classroom, those rules are often ignored and/or students find creative ways to keep using them despite the rules and admonitions from teachers.  Perhaps knowing they’ll do worse in class may have the desired effect when teachers ask them to “silence your cell phones.”

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