Academic journal article JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application

To Slack or Not to Slack: Internet Usage in the Classroom

Academic journal article JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application

To Slack or Not to Slack: Internet Usage in the Classroom

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper investigates cyber-slacking with Internet technologies in the classroom. Rooted in Lewin's Field Theory, we develop a model linking external forces (i.e., social norms, distraction by other students' cyber-slacking, and awareness of instructor monitoring) and internal forces (i.e., cognitive absorption with Internet technologies and multitasking) to an individual's behavior (i.e., intent to cyber-slack). Using data collected from 451 students, we found social norms, multitasking, and cognitive absorption contributed to the intent to cyber-slack. Further, we found cognitive absorption with Internet technologies mediated the relationship between multitasking and intent to cyber-slack. The paper concludes with a discussion of implications for teaching, course design, and research.

Keywords: cyber-slacking, internet procrastination, Lewin's Field Theory, PLS

INTRODUCTION

Internet access has been touted as a means to supplement instruction by providing easy access to course material, resources such as multimedia, and information on current events (Anonymous 2007). For example, Internet-enabled tools are used to frequently update course materials and grades and to communicate with students (McComb 1994). To support learning in the classroom, educational institutions have integrated Internet applications into their infrastructures by offering in-class access to wireless networks (Henderson, Kotz, and Abyzov 2004) and out-ofclass access to wireless hotspots to download class slides or to take on-line exams (Shotsberger and Vatter 2001). Through the use of Internet technologies, students are thought to have access to more timely, relevant, and updated material.

Contrary to realizing positive outcomes from Internet access, practitioner reports suggest Internet access distracts students from paying attention to lectures or participating in classroom activities, thereby diminishing their learning (Young 2006). In fact, one study reported that 43 percent of freshmen at a New York university experienced attrition due to greater Internet access and had an inability to curtail excessive personal computer use (Lavoie and Pychyl 2001). Some instructors have experimented with banning laptops in the classroom to control off-task Internet usage. For example, one faculty member found that directly following a classroom ban of laptop usage, her students paid more attention during class time and had higher performance in regard to their grades (Bugeja 2007). While technologies have delivered learning materials at faster speeds, evidence from practice suggests that when students have access to Internet-enabled applications, they also "Internet procrastinate" or "cyber-slack" at higher rates (Lavoie et al. 2001).

To glean a deeper understanding into why Internet technologies may hinder, rather than facilitate, learning in the classroom, this study investigates what influences students' Internet use in the classroom. Specifically, we focus on the following question:

What causes students to "cyber-slack" in the classroom?

This paper unfolds as follows: we begin by introducing our research model using a focused review of Lewin's Field Theory to inform our understanding of cyber-slacking and Internet use. Specifically, we propose social norms, distraction by other students' cyber-slacking, awareness of instructor monitoring, cognitive absorption with Internet technologies, and multitasking influence a student's intent to cyber-slack. Then we empirically test and present the results of our research model. We test for mediation of cognitive absorption between multitasking and intent to cyber-slack. The paper concludes with implications for teaching, course design, and research.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Our model predicting intent to cyber-slack draws on Kurt Lewin's Field Theory, which suggests individuals are embedded in complex social fields comprised of multiple, interdependent psychological and social factors (Lewin 1946). …

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