How Digital Distractions Influence Learner Information Processing

How Digital Distractions Influence Learner Information Processing

Tiphaine Colliot
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9243-4.ch003
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The use of digital technologies in the classroom continues to rise as more students take lecture notes on laptops rather than pen and paper. In addition, digital technologies can greatly influence student behavior. Indeed, these devices can lead students to engage in unrelated online activities during a lecture. Obviously, these activities can have negative consequences on student learning. This chapter aims to provide an understanding to how digital distraction influences learners' information processing. First, this chapter will present how students process instructional material and explore effective strategies for high-quality learning. Second, this chapter will investigate how digital distraction disturbs information processing based on the cognitive load theory and contiguity principle. Third, this chapter will focus on the effects of digital distraction on student notes and learning. Fourth, this chapter will offer recommendations for curbing digital distraction.
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College Students And Learning

The cognitive theory of multimedia learning (CTML), developed by Richard E. Mayer, is a well-known model in educational psychology (Mayer, 2001, 2009, 2020). This model describes how people learn from words and pictures. These “multimedia documents” are widely used in educational settings. Indeed, many instructors present lectures via PowerPoint slides with text and illustrations. Therefore, it is critical to understand how this information is processed in memory to promote the use of effective learning strategies that improve college students’ learning. CTML (Mayer, 2020) relies on three critical assumptions.

First, the dual-channels assumption refers to the fact that “humans possess separate information processing channels for visual/spatial material and auditory/verbal material” (Mayer, 2020, p. 34). For instance, when attending a lecture, college students may be required to process the speech of their lecturer and visual information like a passage from a textbook, written information, or illustrations on a whiteboard. Students process the details through different channels. Verbal information will be processed in the auditory/verbal channel; written text and illustrations will be processed in the visual/spatial channel. Learners can also transform a piece of information and process it in both channels. As an example, when viewing an illustration of an animal, learners can automatically retrieve the name of the animal from their previous knowledge and long-term memory. This transforms visual information into verbal and vice versa. This dual-channels assumption stems from Paivio’s (2006) distinction between verbal/nonverbal systems in his dual coding theory and from Baddeley’s components of the working memory model (phonological loop versus visuospatial sketchpad, see Baddeley, Eysenck, and Anderson [2015], for a detailed presentation).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Multitasking: When a person is engaged in two or more tasks at the same time.

Temporal Contiguity Effect: Processing visual information with corresponding oral information, leading to higher learning performances compared to processing information successively.

Generative Learning: Learners actively engaging in the process of making sense of instructional material to achieve high-quality learning.

Digital Distraction: A situation where one is distracted by a technology device (e.g., smartphone, laptop, tablet) while engaging in another activity.

Cognitive Load: Number of cognitive resources required to process information in a situation given the environment and the individual’s characteristics.

Split-Attention Effect: Dividing one’s attention to process several sources of information.

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