1 Mount St. Joseph University (UNITED STATES)
2 University of Cincinnati (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2020 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Page: 3171 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-09-17939-8
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2020.0915
Conference name: 14th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 2-4 March, 2020
Location: Valencia, Spain
The fact that university students use mobile phones for unstructured purposes (entertainment and social reasons) is evident to university faculty and well-documented in the literature. Literature and empirical experience suggest this unstructured cell phone usage may have adverse impacts on student achievement and create a contagious climate of distraction and off-task behaviors. Thus, while the need for action is clear, yet, just what to do about this unstructured usage is less understood. This action research project seeks to understand student unstructured cell phone usage as well as faculty response to this potentially problematic behavior and finally move toward concrete interventions to minimize off-task behaviors and capitalize on potential benefits of cell phones as educational tools.

Our research surveyed professors (lecturers) and undergraduate students at two local, private universities in the United States. Our survey confirmed that almost all students engage in off-tasks cell phone usage, that is, using cell phones for social and/or entertainment purposes. In the US context, cell phone policies that reduce student grades for off-task behaviors are the norm, yet such policies seem ineffective: our survey showed such policies are not enforced by faculty and often unperceived by students. For instance, while almost all of the faculty have an off-task cell phone policy, less than half of students even knew of the existence of such policies. Moreover, even though off-task cell phone usage is ubiquitous, only twelve percent of students reported that such punitive policies had ever resulted in a grade reduction.

Clearly, the development of effective ways to discourage off-tasks behaviors and encourage on-task behaviors is needed. Our center is currently engaging in the development of friendly, multimedia ads and videos to raise student awareness of cell phone policies. We are also experimenting with offering students non-technical, “unplugged” ways to occupy their hands: we are implementing a program called “We Heart Fiber Art” (knitting and crocheting during class to create items for charitable causes) and/or offering students fidget toys. As our research shows that less than half of professors leverage cell phones for educational purposes, we are also conducting faculty workshops to familiarize faculty with educational mobile applications. Our presentation will feature the survey results as well as the results of this multi-pronged intervention in off-task cellphone usage; finally, we will elaborate on plans for future projects.
Off-task cell phone use, unstructured cell phone use, student engagement, higher education.