Friday, August 03, 2018


Well, thank goodness for this: A group of Rutgers University scientists have determined that having cell phones and personal laptops in classrooms limit concentration and can ultimately lower students' grades.
Thank you, Rutgers University scientists. First of all, for being at a university where the real hard thinking takes place, and for being scientists. That means these guys are super thinkers, so when they say that they have figured something out, we owe them a listen. They did a study with college students in which one group was allowed to have laptops and cell phones open for non-classroom purposes, and the other group wasn't. The group using devices scored about a half a letter grade lower on exams: the difference between passing or failing for some students. It should also be noted that students who didn’t use a device but were in the same classroom with those who did also scored lower. This was likely due to distraction from surrounding devices.
There it is, folks. That word that teachers have been tossing around for years and years, almost always in direct conjunction with an eye roll or heavy sigh. Of course you were just looking up that answer on Wikipedia, but you happened to be going there by way of your Instagram account where you happened to see a cat playing a piano. Which required you to, quick, forward that to a half dozen of your closest friends and oh by the way did you see what Alphonse said? 
What was the question again?
I have a somewhat rehearsed rap in which I talk to parents or teachers or anyone who will listen that being the computer teacher at an elementary school is, at times, an exercise in futility. This is because the kids who show up in our computer lab are often carrying devices that have more functionality and power than the desktop machines at which I sit them. So just under the table, where they believe their hands are invisible, they carry on the business of being ten. Or twelve. Or younger. Our school has a rule that no cell phones are allowed to be turned on our visible during the day. After the bell rings, power up and return to the wireless world of whatever you do with that phone that may be smarter than you are. 
Meanwhile, I continue to walk the line of teaching technology and asking my students not to participate in it as fully as they might, since fiddling with their personal technology is probably going to keep them from learning about how to use it properly. Now I can tell them that Rutgers University scientists have told teachers to "explain to students the damaging effect of distractions on retention -- not only for themselves, but for the whole class."
That's science. University science. So there. Mister Caven is still a meanie.

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