Research Review on “The Impact of Mobile Phone Usage on Student Learning” by Jeffery H. Kuznekoff & Scott Titsworth


There's no denying that in 2019 we are living in a culture where human beings are enclosed and absorbed by technology — a digital culture. Will this newly introduced technology, specifically mobile phone usage and social media engagement, significantly impact how students learn during class lectures? This is the question that Jeffrey H. Kuznekoff and Scott Titsworth poses in the article “The Impact of Mobile Phone Usage on Student Learning. Their study considers whether social media/texting will have negative influence on students’ in-class note-taking behaviour and subsequent performance during exams. 

Participants in this study were American university students, aged 18-22, with the accessibility to a mobile phone, and enrolled in one of several communication programs courses.The design used in this study called for randomly splitting participants into three groups: a control group (group 1), who listened to a class lecture and took notes, and two groups who listened, took notes, and engaged in stimulated texting/posting (group 2 and 3). 

The experiment occurred in a simulated classroom setting, monitored by a researcher, where all the participants were required to watch a lecture, take notes, and answer exam questions concerning lecture content. However, group 2 and 3 undertook an additional step, requiring them to engage with stimulated texting/social media during the lecture. They were instructed to take out their mobile phones and open their web browser that provided a link to an online survey. After students pressed continue, the survey would automatically present them with stimulated texts/posts following a predetermined schedule. During this time, students were instructed to listen to the lecture and take notes simultaneously. Students in the low distraction condition (group 2), were given a new stimulated text approximately every 60 seconds. The high distraction group (group 3), received a stimulated text/post every 30 seconds. Following the lecture, students were allowed 3 minutes to go over their notes before taking two exams regarding the lecture content that would test their memory. Once the test was complete, students were instructed to put their answers in an envelope and return it to the researcher. The results indicate there is a significant negative relationship between texting/posting and test performance. 

The goal of Jeffrey H. Kuznekoff and Scott Titsworth's study was to determine the influence student texting/posting during class lecture has on their learning abilities. The results determined that the students who were habitually using their mobile phone during a lecture scored lower on tests than those students who were not using their phones.


Alexandra Meredith February 11, 2019, 8:15 PM

**Critique** The research question, “Whether texting or posting to a social network has negative impacts on students’ note-taking behaviours and subsequent performance on exams,” is essential to learning today. The extent to which these devices hinder attention, amount and quality information recorded, and memory among others is increasingly thought to be significant and studied by research teams as seen in the literature review included by Kuznekoff and Titsworth. With the prevalence of mobile phones increasing, along with attachment to the device, this question would not only benefit teachers by knowing how this affects learning but also the students so that they can alter their actions and take charge of their own learning. Their methods, simulating messages/posts and listening to a video lecture, is an excellent equivalent for lab research, but do not necessarily mimic realistic conditions. The researchers expressed in their analysis that in future studies, individuals receiving texts from their friends would be more accurate and most resemble real life conditions. The students’ ranking of notes, multiple choice, and recall exams was well-rounded and allowed them to test several aspects besides attention including why attention is diminished, quality of information, and transferring information from short-term to long-term memory. However, a more realistic situation in which the messages/posts received would be from friends and the exam would be at the end of a unit or term should be included in a future study. The researchers selected their participants from a large, midwestern university in the United States, but admit that there were less students than they would have liked. While the students were said to be representative of that university and the results were statistically significant, students from across the country may be more beneficial. This would allow for a higher number of participants and account for differing attitudes towards using phones in class. For the purposes of pre-service teachers, a high school population would be ideal to use in research on the effects of phones in class. Finally, as mobiles become more entrenched into our daily lives, children growing up will develop different dispositions and usage habits for their phones. Studies like these should be on-going to record the generational gaps (if any) and habits of cell phone users. The study was coherent since the researchers using several factors such as quality of the notes, amount of information included as well as the experimental. In order to ensure that the research question was fully explored, Kuznekoff and Titsworth created four hypotheses. This allowed the study to examine scores on multiple choice tests, scores on a free recall test, details recorded in student notes, and the correlation (which they predicted to be positive) between the number of details recorded in each of the participant’s notes and their individual scores on both quizzes. The results directly reflect the research question in that the study shows that receiving texts and posting during class does negatively impact note taking and exam scores. Kuznekoff and Titsworth show that the groups who received messages did significantly worse on the multiple-choice test than those who did not. In addition, the notes of the control group were more complete and detailed while also recalling more information compared to the groups who received text messages. Therefore, this answers the question in that receiving messages/posts in class does impact learning in that less information is included in the notes, students recall less of the class material, and perform worse on tests. As seen above, this conclusion closely corresponds to the results, therefore this study succeeded in accurately proving its hypotheses.

Coral Phillips February 11, 2019, 8:15 PM
Replying to Coral Phillips

**Analysis** The use of cellphones within the classroom not only adds to an educator’s competition for student attention, but has a negative impact on student learning. With the rise of cellphone use in today’s generation, it is important for both educators and the learners themselves to know the effects it has on their learning. The study on whether texting or posting to a social network has negative impacts on students’ learning has relevance for students because it can allow them to reflect and realize how their cell phone use habits can/are negatively impacting their learning. Students can take the results of this study and make informed decisions the next time they decide to answer a text message or post a status on Facebook while their teacher is lecturing. For me and my peers, as up and coming educators in a world that revolves around mobile phones and social media, this research is pertinent to our success in the teaching & learning field. Perspective teachers should now be considering how to incorporate the use of mobile devices into lesson plans to benefit diverse learners in inclusive educational settings. As mentioned in the critique of the article, mobile phones and social media have been so entrenched in the everyday lives of our students that devoting time to come up with ways to keep students off their phones would be a waste of time. As the old saying goes, “if you can’t beat them, join them”, so instead of trying to fight the battle of keeping students off their phone, it would be easier and more effective to discover new ways to incorporate devices into classroom lessons. For myself, it would seem easier to lead a lesson having students use their mobile device rather than fight with them to put it away, because in reality they will have the ability to use their device it in almost every situation. The information from this study can be used to turn the use of cellphones within the learning atmosphere from negative to positive. For future research, an analysis on how removing mobile devices impacts students learning would be interesting. People have become emotionally attached to their mobile devices due to its omnipresence in every aspect of society, and so then to remove it from the educational environment might prove to hinder student learning rather than enhance it. This study highlighted the negative impacts it had on notetaking and testing capabilities, but the impact might be even greater may it be removed completely.

Coral Phillips February 11, 2019, 8:15 PM
Replying to Coral Phillips

Jeffery H. Kuznekoff & Scott Titsworth (2013) The Impact of Mobile Phone Usage on Student Learning, Communication Education, 62:3, 233-252, DOI: 10.1080/03634523.2013.767917

Massimo Della Felice February 11, 2019, 8:15 PM
Replying to Alexandra Meredith

I personally don't like the way Jeffery H. Kuznekoff and Scott Titsworth went about their study. As you mentioned, the methods they have used for their research do not represent reality. Another condition which I did not support was simulating text messages/notifications every 60 seconds which, realistically speaking, does not occur in our daily lives (or at least the probability must be very low). Additionally, I do believe that mobile phone usage may impact a students' learning, however, not every student will react and use their cellphones in the same way as others. I like how you mention that if the sample of participants would have been larger, we would have probably observed various attitudes towards using phones during a lecture. From my personal experience, I choose when I wish to pull out my phone and take notes, and it does not mean that I have failed an exam because I was on my phone a few times during lectures. We have to remember that most of the studying occurs on the students' own time and we only retain 10-20% of what they have learned throughout their lecture.

Michelle Chamandy-Cook February 14, 2019, 8:15 PM
Replying to Coral Phillips

This is a topic that I think about often - especially in regards to what my rules will be around cell phones in my future classroom. I agree with Massimo that everyone uses their phone differently. However, regardless of how often a student may look at their phone, think about the residual effect and where the mind goes (ex. "why didn't they message me back", "how many 'likes' did I get", "I should respond to this message") So it is not only that you may check one message, but the mind may (and likely will) wonder. Also, does it ever happen to you that you pick up your phone to do one thing but then end up doing several other things and sometimes forget why you picked up your phone in the first place? ALSO, are students picking up their phones with a purpose or are they picking them up due to habits/"auto-pilot" mode, or as means of escaping social situations. That being said, I hope to have a cell phone free classroom to promote (a) LEARNING (which MAY be done using technology depending on what and how) and more importantly for me is (b) SOCIAL INTERACTION: FACE-TO-FACE (no, not Facetime)

Kim Abi Zeid Daou teacher February 18, 2019, 9:01 PM

Great job! Your topic is very important in the current educational landscape and you brought in interesting perspectives that went beyond the scope of the article.

Ayana Kamal February 25, 2019, 7:56 PM

I think the research question is so relevant to our future realities: everyone is obsessed with technology. Our phones have become an extension of ourselves, and thus it is important to study the effect of this in various fields. Especially in the field of education where having students' focus and attention is essential for our end goal. As was said in your critique, this study is not really representative of the real life and so it is difficult to obtain an authentic conclusion. Personally, I don't believe in taking away students' phones and having a zero tolerance policy. Our phones are an important method of communication and emergencies do happen. To prevent the hindering effect of our phones, I would try to integrate technology into the classroom in a relevant way. Like what was said in the analysis "if you can’t beat them, join them”. I think it would be more effective to channel students' interest in their mobile devices in a positive educational way instead of prohibiting them completely.

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