Even the smartest college students suffer academically when they use the internet in class for non-academic purposes, new research finds.
The study speaks to typical lecture-hall culture in which professors compete for students’ attention with laptops and smartphones.
“Students of all intellectual abilities should be responsible for not letting themselves be distracted by use of the internet,” says Susan Ravizza.
Ravizza, associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, and colleagues studied non-academic internet use in an introductory psychology class with 500 students. Their working theory was that heavy internet users with lower intellectual abilities—determined by ACT scores—would perform worse on exams.
Past research suggests smarter people are better at multitasking and filtering out distractions.
But surprisingly, that wasn’t the case. All students, regardless of intellectual ability, had lower exam scores the more they used the internet for non-academic purposes such as reading the news, sending emails, and posting Facebook updates.
Ravizza says that might be because internet use is a different type of multitasking, in that it can be so engaging.
The study, available online in the journal Computers & Education, also showed students discounted the effects of internet use on academic performance, reinforcing past findings that students have poor awareness of how their smartphones and laptops affect learning.
Ravizza says it would be nearly impossible to attempt to ban smartphones or other electronic devices from lecture halls. “What would you do, have hundreds of people put their cell phones in a pile and pick them up after class?”
Such a ban might also be a safety issue, since cell phones have become a primary source of receiving emergency messages.
The National Science Foundation supported the study.
<Non-academic internet use in the classroom is negatively related to classroom learning regardless of intellectual ability >, Published on Journal <Computers & Education> in September 2014