Reducing Distractions and Increasing Performance with Focus

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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Educational technology has the potential to substantially improve student success, particularly when it comes to active learning. Yet, many instructors are concerned about the impact of internet-enabled devices like laptops and phones in their classrooms, and research demonstrates that using devices in the classroom can divide student’s attention in class (Glass & Kang, 2017; Sana, Weston & Cepeda, 2013; Hembrooke & Gay, 2003; Grace-Martin & Gay, 2001). The division of  student attention between classroom instruction and content on mobile devices is sometimes referred to as multitasking behavior. Previous research has indicated that multitasking behavior (Payne-Carter, Greenburg & Walker, 2017; Jacobsen & Forste, 2011; Fried, 2007) is negatively related to student performance on classroom exams and overall course grades, as well as student perception of content mastery.

Macmillan Learning’s new Focus feature in iClicker Reef was created to help students manage the distractions that divide their attention while maintaining active learning in class. Focus is a setting instructors can enable in iClicker to help students stay on task when using mobile devices for participation in iClicker classroom activities. Students log into their iClicker sessions during class and are sent a reminder to remain focused in class if they choose to leave the iClicker session to browse the web, answer texts, or watch videos. Students and their instructor are provided a summary of information about students’ time spent in and out of Focus while using iClicker. The goal of providing this information is to increase students’ awareness of any multitasking behavior and to help them self-regulate their ability to stay on task
during class.

In the Fall 2019 semester, eight instructors partnered with Macmillan Learning to better understand whether iClicker Focus supports student learning and self-regulation of multitasking behavior. This research brief outlines those partnerships and highlights the results of the study. The report begins with an overview of iClicker Reef and the Focus feature, the research procedures including samples and methods are presented next, followed by results and implications for instructors.