UNL study: Students digitally distracted in class - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE; KLKNTV.com

UNL study: Students digitally distracted in class

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Posted By: Camila Orti

Everywhere you look, people are on their smart phones, tablets and laptops. One UNL professor wanted to measure this trend in the classroom.

Associate Professor Barney McCoy noticed phones creeping out during class on a daily basis, prompting him to launch a study to measure how often college students use their electronics in class for non–classroom purposes.

"I was curious, I said what's really going on here, how frequently is this happening, what kinds of tasks are students using their smart phones and their tablets and their laptops for?" McCoy said.

His study, released last week, shows that typical college students look at their digital devices about 11 times a day while in class.

"It confirms our belief that these devices are causing more distractions than they have in the past," McCoy said.

More than 700 students at six universities in five states were anonymously surveyed. Fewer than 5 percent said using devices in class is a big deal.

"I don't think it's too distracting or too bad for your schoolwork," UNL freshman Mac Wall said.

But more than half think it does cause a small distraction, one that McCoy says could affect grades.

For some who teach, this presents more of a challenge than a problem.

"Everyone's addicted to multi–tasking and that just means that we have to be more engaging than we ever were before," assistant journalism professor Scott Winter said.

Winter says he encourages his students to use technology in class, and if it's not class-related, it's on him.

"If I'm not as interesting as what's happening on their phone, then I need to find a new job," Winter said.

Nearly 90 percent of the students surveyed say if they have their phone out during class, it's for texting.

McCoy's study was published in the Journal of Media Education.

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