Beyond turn on, tune in, drop out: incorporating students’ mobile devices into the classroom

Kissoon, Chavan, Arzuaga, Susel and Summan, Sandhla (2016) Beyond turn on, tune in, drop out: incorporating students’ mobile devices into the classroom. In: Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C), 6-8 Sept 2016, University of Warwick.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Presentation)
Item Status:Live Archive


This presentation reports on the initial findings of a funded collaborative cross-school Student as Producer project. The project is set within the context of the much challenged but also widely repeated digital natives discourse (Prensky, 2001) and highly contested debate around technology’s potential impact on the workings of the mind (Greenfield, 2009, Carr, 2011, Stone 2009) as well as anecdotal feedback from staff on how mobile technology in the classroom impacts on student behaviour in terms of attention, note taking and retention of information.

This research originated from student rep feedback about the disruptive impact in large lectures that students who are “digitally distracted” have on those students focussed on learning. Wanting to explore this phenomenon further and to propose mitigation strategies, the project involved staff from the university’s Educational Development and Enhancement Unit, Business School and Law School as well as student partners. It looked at the impact of mobile devices in the classroom from several perspectives:

1) Through focus groups and surveys of staff from both schools, we captured the experiences of lecturers delivering to “digitally distracted” students. Research conducted from the learner perspective acknowledges distraction as “a feature of the communication technologies available to students” (Jones and Healing, 2010 cited in Jones and Shao, 2011) but how does this impact on the lecturer’s delivery rather than students’ learning?

2) Through focus groups and surveys with students, we gathered student views on their own digital distraction related to having mobile technology in the classroom as well as how they get distracted by other students’ usage of mobile devices in class.

3) An experiment investigating the learning gain of students with and without mobiles in a controlled setting.

The two participating schools had different approaches to the issue of digital distraction: from the “let’s discover together how we can harness the potential of smartphones in learning” (Wheeler, 2015, p9) approach in one school to another school banning the use of mobiles in sessions. This project explored how staff could better incorporate mobile phones and tablets in large lectures so that students could use these positively for active learning rather than a case of “turn on, tune in, drop out”. This paper will look at the themes emerging from the data, focusing on initial findings and solution emerging.

As well as furthering debates on digital distraction of learners, it is envisaged that outcomes of this project could result in: firstly, purchasing new technological solutions in the schools to enhance the TEL environment; secondly, shaping school level T&L policy on the use of mobile devices in class; thirdly, increasing staff awareness of different pedagogical approaches around embedding technology in the classroom.

Carr, N (2011). The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember. London: Atlantic Books.

Greenfield, S. (2014). Mind Change: How digital technologies are leaving their mark on our brains. London: Rider.
Jones, Chris and Shao, Binhui (2011). The net generation and digital natives: implications for higher education. Higher Education Academy, York.

Linda Stone blog (2009). Continuous Partial Attention [blog entry] 6th June. Available from: [Accessed 6th June 2016].

Prensky, M (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants : Part 1, On the Horizon, 9(5), 1 – 6.

Wheeler, S. (2015). Learning with ‘e’s: educational theory and practice in the digital age. Carmarthen: Crown House.

Keywords:digital education, educational development, learning technology, mobile phones
Subjects:X Education > X900 Others in Education
Divisions:Professional services
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ID Code:29886
Deposited On:05 Dec 2017 20:57

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