Cell phones are seductive.
In the classroom, if a cell phone is in the backpack or back pocket, it can be distracting.
If it’s out in the car, it isn’t.
If it’s within reach, students perform more poorly on tests by a half a grade than those students whose phones were out of reach. Yes, the mere presence of cell phones can be detrimental.
What’s going on? The problem here is with “divided attention”, or paying attention to two things at once, sometimes known as the “fear of missing out”.
In the academic setting, precision is important and listening to complex verbal information requires attention, language processing, sequencing and memory, full engagement is required.
If you know you can’t get to your phone, you surrender, knowing that it’s out of your control, so you stop paying attention to it.
Truly out of sight, out of mind.
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