Curbing Student Digital Distraction With Non-Traditional Teaching Strategies

Curbing Student Digital Distraction With Non-Traditional Teaching Strategies

Abraham Flanigan, Jackie HeeYoung Kim
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4360-3.ch009
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Student use of mobile phones, laptop computers, and other digital devices for leisure purposes has become nearly omnipresent in college classrooms across the globe. The emergence of the digital distraction phenomenon has left many educators searching for strategies to curb the amount of habitual off-task behavior taking place in their classrooms. The chapter supplies educators with a menu of strategies to diminish the occurrence of student digital distraction in their classrooms. Specifically, the authors discuss evidence-based non-traditional strategies that can be applied to reduce student digital distraction in the traditional face-to-face setting, and they position the flipped classroom model as a viable approach for instructors who wish to curb student digital distraction while simultaneously boosting student engagement and learning. Finally, they discuss the importance of empowering students to take control over their digital device use and learning outcomes by training them to become autonomous, self-regulated learners.
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Learning is affected by the context in which it takes place (e.g., Trigwell & Prosser, 1991). The emergence and widespread availability of mobile devices (e.g., smart phones, laptops) has produced a situation wherein college students are often confronted with two competing courses of action during class—stay engaged with the classroom activities or be pulled off-task by their mobile devices (Anshari, Almunawar, Shahrill, Wicaksono, & Huda, 2017; Flanigan & Babchuk, 2015). As a result, understanding how student learning takes place in today’s contemporary college classrooms requires that researchers, practitioners, and stakeholders are attuned to the pervasiveness of off-task digital device usage during class—a phenomenon commonly referred to as digital distraction (McCoy, 2020).

This chapter provides college educators with a comprehensive understanding of the digital distraction phenomenon and offers evidence-based recommendations to curb student digital distraction using non-traditional instructional methods. We begin by providing readers with an overview of the occurrence, causes, and consequences of student digital distraction in college classrooms. We then delve into strategies to curb off-task device use. We first focus on non-traditional strategies that instructors can apply in the traditional classroom setting before turning out attention to the flipped classroom approach. Finally, we discuss why and how instructors should help their students become autonomous, self-regulated learners capable of overcoming the temptation created by their digital devices during class.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Flipped Classroom Model: Pedagogical approach in which students are responsible for engaging with course content on their own outside of the classroom before attending in-class lessons wherein students engage in a variety of applied, active learning experiences to deepen their content mastery.

Digital Distraction: Student use of digital devices (e.g., smart phones, laptop computers) for off-task purposes while attending to academic tasks in the classroom.

Self-Regulated Learning: Occurs when students take ownership over their learning process through the deliberate application of cognitive, behavioral, and metacognitive strategies geared towards achievement of academic goals.

Digital Devices: Portable, web-enabled electronic devices (e.g., smart phones, iPads, laptop computers, smart watches) that can be carried from place to place.

Active Learning: Student-centered, interactive approach to learning in which students become behaviorally and cognitively engaged in the learning process, as opposed to passively receiving information from their instructor (often in the form of a lecture).

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