New study examines the impact of course-related texts and tweets on student recall.

tweeting-textingStudents who tweet or message about anything associated with an academic lesson could demonstrate greater recall and learn more from lectures.

The finding is part of a new study, Texting and Tweeting in the Classroom: How Do They Impact Student Learning?, appears in the National Communication Association’s journal, and analyzes how different social media messaging, including tweets, impacts how much students retain what they learn during lectures.

It aims to connect past research about mobile devices, texting, and social media distracting students in class with the increasingly popular method of using mobile devices for course-relevant purposes, to better understand how mobile device use impacts student learning.

(Next page: Content and context of tweets matter)

Researchers cited previous studies indicating that students who text or use mobile devices in class do not display the same level of recall as those students who do not text.

In order to assess the extent to which social media messaging may or may not play a role in student retention, researchers examined students who used mobile devices in class to respond to questions or messages that were both related and unrelated to the lecture topic or lesson material. Students responded to messages and also composed original messages or questions.

Study results showed that the students who replied to messages related to course content or the lecture scored higher on multiple choice tests than did students who replied to messages that were not relevant or related.

Researchers found that students who did not use their mobile devices, or who participated in class-relevant texting, earned a 10–17 percent higher percentage grade on a multiple-choice test, scored 53–70 percent higher on information recall, and scored 51–58 percent higher on note-taking than those groups engaged in Twitter and irrelevant texting.

“Teaching strategies that integrate students’ use of mobile devices should be commended. Those approaches reflect adaptation to an increasingly connected group of students, and appropriately responding to shifting cultural uses of technology. Whether in a K-12 or college classroom, it is reasonable to hypothesize that appropriate use of mobile devices will keep students engaged and will therefore likely have positive learning outcomes,” the authors wrote.

“On the other hand, researchers have observed rather consistent results showing that the use of technology for noncourse-related purposes has a negative effect on student learning.”

Study participants included 145 undergraduate students enrolled in communication classes at a large Midwestern university. Each meeting was randomly assigned to a control group, a high-distraction texting group, a low-distraction texting group, a high-distraction Twitter group, and a low-distraction Twitter group.

Researchers cautioned against faculty “rushing to integrate texting and Twitter into the classroom. …While having students send out tweets related to course content might improve student engagement, doing so too frequently may have adverse effects on student note-taking.”

They recommended giving students a break during lectures and classroom time, during which students could compose course-related messages without also having to devote attention to taking notes while listening to the instructor.

The authors note that engaging in texting or sending social media messages related to course content could offer students another way to participate in processes that occur during traditional note-taking.

“The findings from our study reinforce, and extend, those of other studies, and provide clear evidence that frequent messaging unrelated to class content interferes with student learning while in class; however, relevant messaging does not appear to negatively impact student learning,” the researchers concluded. “Although faculty will continue to face the challenge of students using their mobile devices while in class, it does appear that appropriately integrating the use of these devices into class may help student learning.”

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Laura Ascione

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