Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

Factors Contributing to Technology-Enabled Distractions in the Classroom: A Case Study of Students at the Polytechnic of Namibia

Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

Factors Contributing to Technology-Enabled Distractions in the Classroom: A Case Study of Students at the Polytechnic of Namibia

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Numerous studies have emphasized the benefits of laptops, tablets, mobile devices, and the Internet in the classroom (Maki, Maki, Patterson and Whittaker, 2000; Saunders and Klemming, 2003; Wen, Tsai and Chang, 2004). These studies focus on information technologies' abilities to engage students, facilitate faculty-student and student-student interactions, and create active learning opportunities (e.g. Driver, 2002; Fitch, 2004). On the other hand, critics argue that much of this research evaluates success via student perceptions (e.g. satisfaction) rather than using objective measures of learning (Fried, 2008). They assert that the technology is likely to cause cognitive overload and attention distraction in the classroom. Several studies have found that the use of digital technologies (e.g., computers, mobile phones, Internet) in the classroom is negatively associated with course performance and self-reported understanding of course material (Fried, 2008; Junco and Cotton, 2011; Kraushaar and Novak, 2010; Martin, 2011; Wurst, Smarkola and Gaffney. 2008). For example, Martin (2011) reports that holding business statistics classes in a computer equipped classroom had a negative effect on student performance. In addition, research studies by Wood, et al. (2012) found that students not using any digital technologies in the classroom outperformed students with technology use.

There is mounting evidence that students are often using laptops, mobile phones, Internet, and other digital technologies during classroom lectures for activities that are irrelevant to the class. These distractions take the form of playing computer games, texting, e-mailing, checking social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, twitter), surfing the web, or shopping online (Akst, 2010; Burns and Lohenry, 2010; Campbell, 2006; Heffernan, 2010; Rajeshwar, 2010). University lecturers and professors claim that they are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the colorful and entertaining contents on the Internet. As the result, many universities are reacting to this troubling phenomenon by restricting computer, mobile phone, and Internet access in the classrooms (Melerdiercks, 2005; Adams, 2006). However, simply blocking access to technologies without carefully studying the root causes of technology-led distraction in the classroom seems irresponsible and inconsistent with the push of many educational institutions to embrace information technologies in teaching/research and learning.

There is currently a paucity of studies in this area, and existing studies provide limited explanation of the psychological motivations behind technology-enabled distraction witnessed in the classroom. We believe that a systematic study of this subject is warranted as more and more mobile technologies are being introduced to students and educators. Studies of this nature may reveal underlying psychological and cognitive issues of university students and identify structural problems in classroom management and pedagogical approaches. The findings could help educators rethink and redesign their course content and delivery approaches to better fit the changing classroom environment. Also, this research will help us validate our research model and allow us to make recommendations to university educators and administrators on how to effectively reduce digital distraction in the classroom while amplifying the benefits of technology in teaching, learning, and research.

First, this research study is designed to gauge the extent to which students are distracted in the classroom by vital technologies. Second, the study seeks to identify factors/variables that contribute to this behavior. This study posits that the level of in-class digital distraction of a student is influenced by the extent of student's addiction to the Internet, student's learning style, teaching styles, and other individual (e.g., age, gender, etc.) and contextual factors (e. …

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