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Electronic Devices: A distraction in class or a tool for learning?

A large part of professors here at BYU-Idaho allow students to use their computers, tablets and even their smartphones during class for taking notes and reading the digital version of the class’s book. While the use of such devices are beneficial, they can be a source of distraction in class too.

A study made by Bernard McCoy, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, did research about how distracted college students get with electronic devices during class time. In 2013 he found out that on average students use electronic devices around 11 times for non-class purposes. In 2015 the number grew to around 12 times. As well, on average students spent 20.9 percent of class time using electronic devices for non-class purposes.

Many of the students involved in that research said that having the possibility to use electronic devices was a distraction in class. A few BYU-I students share their opinion on the topic.

Owen Dalling, a freshman studying computer science, said that being able to use computers and tablets during class is very helpful because you have all the material and sources right there in front of you and typing is faster than writing. It is not the teacher’s fault when students prefer to use their electronic devices for something else that is not related to what is being talked about in class.

“You don’t really know what students will be doing on their tablets or computers during class,” Dalling said. “You have to trust them that they will be doing class work.”

Garth Malin, a senior studying plant and wildlife ecology, believes that the decision to use electronic devices is personal.

“If the person is going to be tempted to use their electronic devices for something else during class, they probably should turn it off,” Malin said. “But if they are using their devices in a appropriate way for the class and paying attention it is fine.”

Megan Elkins, a sophomore studying early childhood education, said that it all depends on the class.

“If I need to take notes I usually use a note book, but if I need something like scriptures and that sort of stuff I use my phone,” Elkins said. “If it is a religious class it’s helpful to have my phone, but if it is another class it is distracting.”

Elkins said that putting your phone on airplane mode during class can help you avoid some of the distraction.

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