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Psychology Lecture Series: Phones in the Classroom

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Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center located on Fountain St.

By Mason Glanville

On Tuesday, Feb. 11, Grand Rapids Community College hosted a lecture on a topic that most students are familiar with: technology use in the classroom. Specifically, the researcher discussed off topic technology use in the classroom. 

In the Applied Technology Center lecture hall, Dr. Susan Ravizza, a psychologist from Michigan State University, addressed a nearly-full audience of students, many of whom were receiving extra credit for their psychology classes. 

The title of Ravizza’s lecture was “Portable Device Use and Learning in the Modern Age.” In short, her research proved that using the internet in class (for non-class related topics) negatively affected test grades. 

“Subtracting for interest, motivation, and intellectual ability, about 6% of test grade variance related to off topic internet use,” Ravizza said. 

GRCC President Bill Pink was in the audience, although he stepped out halfway through the lecture to answer a phone call. In fact, nearly all of the students in the room confessed to having a cell phone with them, and many used them to text or Snapchat during the course of the lecture. Luckily, there was not a test at the end.

Assuring the audience that she is not a luddite, Ravizza used the latter part of her speech to preview her other research, which paints personal technology in a more positive light, proving that people are “less likely to be misled” while reading news on Twitter than they are when viewing video broadcasts alone. 

For GRCC student Marissa Sluss, 24, a psychology major from Grand Rapids, technology seems neither wonderful nor harmful for her classroom learning. Sluss says her stance on the issue is “more in the middle.”

This middle ground is where most research seems to land on the topic. As technology and automation increase in complexity, researchers will have to work ever harder to answer profound questions about how electronic connectivity improves– or worsens– our lives.