A year ago, Susan Dynarski, economics professor at the University of Michigan, decided to ban the use of non-specially formulated electronics during lectures. On an op-ed for the New York Times, she mentioned the body of research evidence linking electronics with distraction from learning. The evidence, she admits, sounds reasonable but is not systematic. Not everyone uses electronics in the same way, and if there is a correlation, it could go in the opposite direction. In any case, she felt comfortable enough to proceed with her ban.
Previous research supports general claims about the educational advantages of limited screen time. A research on US children aged 8 to 11, an inverse correlation between screen time and quality of sleep, physical activity and resulting cognition scores, was found.
Another economics professor, Trevon D. Logan, took Dynarski up on the idea, mostly out of curiosity “to see what would happen.” He admitted being very discreet surprised and encouraged. According to him, average scores rose “half a standard deviation higher than previous offerings” and “well above the long run average.” Furthermore, the students seemed grateful.
Implications for Moodle
- Clearly, divided attention has no learning benefits. If Moodle is used during class, it should not be simultaneous to other activities, lectures included. Moodle should not be considered a valid reason for distraction.
- There are, of course, those who believe lectures are a waste of collective time. In which case, flipped or hybrid approaches are worth looking into.
- Other aspects of the experience deserve further inspection: engagement, long-term Do students, for example, lose a long-term repository they were unable to collect by not having an electronic device?
- For universities and other places ready to equip students with iPads, it does not hurt to have a policy coming along with it. Particularly, it should not send the message that teacher autonomy in banning electronics can be undermined.
- A final point of discussion is how to convince students that putting down the devices in key moments works in their benefit. Is there a possibility for a persuasive case instead of an authoritarian one?
In the meantime, expect a lot fewer iPads around economic faculties.■
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