A study published by the National Communication Association reports that using smartphones and social media in the classroom come with both negative and positive effects.
Texting can be a distraction in class and can make students perform worse on tests, but when it’s used to repeat and re-teach the material, it can help the information “stick” in the same way that discussing the subject with friends face-to-face would. Other studies have shown that texting in class makes students recall less information and also prevents them from taking effective notes, but when teachers are not in competition for students’ attention, texting can enhance memory and serve as a form of note-taking that actually engages students more.
Researchers looked at students using phones in class to text and tweet, and measured the type and frequency of the messages they sent. Some were texting about the class material, and some weren’t– and those who were texting about class-related things were found to score higher on multiple choice tests administered afterward, writes Nicole Gorman of Education World.
J.H. Kuzennekoff, et. al., published an article in the Communication Education journal entitled “Mobile Phones in the Classroom: Examining the Effects of Texting, Twitter, and Message Content on Student Learning,” concluding that:
… “sending or receiving relevant messages may allow students to engage in similar processes as those that occur during note-taking.”
The frequency with which students text also affects how well they learn. Students who texted or tweeted more frequently about non-school topics scored up to 17% lower on multiple choice tests compared to students who texted less frequently about non-school topics, according to Phys.org.
Some professors are including texting in the curriculum, writes Lecia Bushak of Medical Daily. They are encouraging students to write often, in any form, and to study collaboratively with other students via technology.
One of the best ways to study and encode information in your brain is to digest and regurgitate that information to someone else. In other words, telling your friends about what you’re studying (in a casual way) helps jog your memory when you’re being tested on the info.
The researchers of the study thus conclude that texting about class material does something similar to students’ memories.
This study calls into question traditional classroom policies that ban cell phone use during class, but instructors still face the challenge of monitoring how technology is being used, especially when devices are the property of the student.
Texting has also been found to be helpful in managing the symptoms of mental illness and remembering to take medication on time.