In response to a study published this year on the effect of social media on student performance, one commenter wrote “Yet another study proving what someone with half a brain already: if you are distracted, you are not going to learn very much (petercherman, 2015).” The author of the study, Jeffrey Kuznekoff, would probably disagree. Kuznekoff wondered how social media us in the classroom, like texting and tweeting, affected a student’s ability to learn new material. So, he conducted an experiment comparing the effects of tweeting, texting, and note-taking on test performance. The procedures he used reflect several of those developed by memory scientists. In the end, Kuznekoff showed that the implementation of mobile devices in the classroom has the potential to improve how we learn in ways that reflect our current understanding of memory.
Kuznekoff’s study demonstrates the generation effect discussed in our textbook’s chapter on encoding and retrieval. According textbook author, generating material helps us transfer memories more effectively to long-term memory than passively receiving it (Goldstein, 2011). Goldstein cites the research of Slameka and Graf, in which participants remembered more words when they used them to answer fill-in-the-blank questions rather than just reading them (2011). Kuznekoff took advantage of the generation effect by asking some participants to text or tweet messages that were relevant to material being taught to them in class (Straumsheim, 2015). There scores were nearly as high as those who old-fashioned notes and much better than those who sent irrelevant texts or tweets.
Kuznekoff also makes use of the testing effect. This study demonstrates the testing effect discussed in the same chapter. The testing effect predicts improved memory when we are tested on material that we want to commit to memory (Goldstein, 2011). Roediger and Karpicke tested this hypothesis by comparing the performance of groups that were tested after either rereading a prose passage or taking a recall test (Goldstein 2011). A week later, those who took the recall test forgot much less about the passage than those who simply reread it. In Kuznekoff’s study, some participants received text messages with prompts about the material as it was being presented, testing their recall in real-time (Straumsheim, 2015). Significantly, participants who received these text messages performed much better than even those who sent relevant tweets during class.
Social media are powerful tools. Even this blog assignment is an example of how social media can improve memory. Writing a good thesis statement is an example of the generation effect. Like with encoding strategies, some social media are more effective memory enhancers than others. However, social media is not just a distraction. Advances in technology can help us learn the advances made in science, like memory research. Just because they have a bad reputation, it doesn’t mean that social media can’t play a positive role in learning. Or as tamaraz, who replied to the commenter quoted at the beginning of this entry, said “It is important to critically examine things that ‘everyone already knows’ (2015).”
Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Long-term memory: Encoding and retrieval. In Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (pp. 178-180). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Petercherman. (2015, June 8). Re: Take note [Web log comment]. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/06/08/study-examines-impact-texting-and-tweeting-academic-performance
Straumsheim, C. (2015, June 8). Take note [Web log post]. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from P. (2015, June 8). Re: Take note [Web log comment]. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/06/08/study-examines-impact-texting-and-tweeting-academic-performance
Tamaraz. (2015, January 8). Re: Take note [Web log comment]. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from P. (2015, June 8). Re: Take note [Web log comment]. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/06/08/study-examines-impact-texting-and-tweeting-academic-performance