A Dive into Students' Connectivity

Today’s learning activities have been shifted in ways that only a few could’ve possibly anticipated. The transformation of today’s technology has led to numerous innovation which supports positive learning outcomes. Yet no matter what devices or methods classrooms are using, the expected outcome would always remain similar: conveying teaching materials into an easily perceived and interactive content to better capture students’ understanding.

The infusion of technology in classrooms made obtaining information faster than ever. This helps instructors to make sure that students are able to expand their abilities beyond their knowledge (Electrosonic, 2019). For example, in a complex topic such as engineering, Augmented Reality (AR) technologies can be implemented to push a better student understanding. For day to day learning activities, Digital Learning Tools have been used to facilitate communication and collaboration between educators and learners.

Various innovative technology-based pedagogies have been developed strictly for classroom activities (Larkin et al., 2018). When used properly, the use of mobile devices in classrooms would improve aspects of efficiency and even time management. However, there are always several drawbacks resulted from these transformative changes—but we’ll get to that in a bit.

So, just how ‘connected’ today’s learner really is?
In higher education, Generation Z’s are currently the ones filling the seats (Loveland). Born between 1995-2010, Generation Z has outnumbered millennials—making up for 32% of the world’s population. And according to the Institute of Business Management, approximately 74% of Gen Z spend their free time online.

As stated by Ryan Jenkins, 72% of Generation Z have access to mobile services such as voice, messaging, and data. Even in 2018, more than half (55%) of Gen Z use their smartphones more than 5 hours a day and 26% of them use it for more than 10 hours a day. Such high connectivity is not surprising considering the fact that Generation Z grew up during the times where technological advancements are considered to be most rapid.

When it comes to education, 72% of them prefer a customized experience where higher educations allow students to design their own courses. Generation Z embraces social learning environments where they can be involved directly in the learning process. They also expect on-demand pieces of information and services with low access barriers (Kozinsky, 2017).

Barnes&Noble College’s research showed that today’s learners refuse to be passive. According to the study, 51% of students believed that they learn best by doing instead of listening and that they enjoy a class environment filled with interactivity and discussions over the traditional teaching method that we once employed. This means that Generation Z prospers when they’re given the opportunity for immersive educational challenges. (Kozinsky, 2017).

What does this mean for learning?

The Benefits of Classrooms’ Connectivity

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Student-to-student connectedness refers to a cooperative environment between classmates in the classroom (Dwyer et al., 2004). It is important because it can increase the participation rate (Sidelinger et al., 2011a), and can be positively associated with self-regulated learning (Sideliner et al., 2015). Students’ control of the learning process can also be increased because of technology-mediated learning environments (National Education Association, 2011).

Thanks to the massive digitalization throughout the years, the use of technologies in classrooms allows a greater level of flexibility and individual performance for learners (Andersone, 2017). Students can access learning materials regardless of time and distance and study them through a remote guide from teachers (i.e. through videos or online instructions). Also, teachers can incorporate a diverse learning method within classrooms (by using video-sharing platforms or gamified-learning) to capture learners’ attention and interaction better.

New methods and technologies that have arise affect how the learning environment has changed—forming new learning habits in the process. Those new habits include the use of modern devices such as mobile phones, tablets, and portable computers in the learning process whether it is to communicate with peers or to conduct the teaching in the first place. (Andersone, 2017). Also, various online learning platform constantly notifies students of their progress and share direct feedback from peers and teachers. This allows them to reflect on their progress and methods from time to time, to keep them pursuing the learning.

The Inevitable Drawbacks

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The first drawback would be multitasking. At times where doing nothing may be more productive, multitasking also works the opposite. When using devices in the learning activities, it’s so easy for students to juggle back and forth between the non-academic activities.

Sana et al. believed that laptops pose a significant distraction to both users and fellow students. By using a simulated classroom in an attempt to understand the effects of using laptops in learning, the researchers (2013) found that students who were multitasking their way through class works, as well as students who were in direct view of them, have lower test scores. This means that there is enough distraction that can cause students’ academic performance to decline only by sitting nearby someone who multitask (Sana et al., 2013).

Although some believe how ‘empowering’ multitasking is—because, at the seams, it feels like you’re getting more work done, conducted studies prove otherwise. Baron (2008) believed that we simply can’t concentrate on more that one thing at once and be expected to perform. In short, multitasking can slow learners’ progress and create distractions along the way (Larkin et al., 2018).

Another approaches study digital addictions—where instant access to information is causing serious mental-health concerns for users (Kandaras, 2016). Staying connected is helpful in some cases, but it also has the ability to projects loneliness that could lead to complex cases of mental health (Larkin et al., 2018). A study by Becker et al. studied how media multitasking was a predictor of depression and social anxiety symptoms. Involving 318 participants to complete their measure, they later concluded that higher depression and social anxiety symptoms were linked with multitasking.

For A Better Tomorrow

To conclude, students and learners can apply a new method of approach towards effective learning after knowing both the pros (higher flexibility, getting instant information, new effective methods for different situations, etc.) and cons (overly multitasking, depression, and social anxiety) of staying digitally connected—in addition of creating well-balanced methods adaptable to students’ needs.

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Baron, N. S. Always On. Oxford University Press, New York (2008)

Becker, M. W., Alzahabi, B. S., and Hopwood, C. J. (2013). Media Multitasking is Associated with Symptoms of Depression and Social Anxiety. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc 66(2), 132 - 135.

Dwyer, K. K., Bingham, S. G., Carison, R. E., Prisbell, M., Cruz, A. M., & Fus, D. A. (2004). Communication and connectedness in the classroom: Development of the connected classroom climate inventory. Communication Research Reports, 21(3), 264-272.

Kandaras, N. (2016). Its Digital Heroin: How Screens Turn Kids into Psycotic Junckies. New York Post.

Kozinsky, S. (2017). How Generation Z Is Shaping The Change in Education. Retrieved August 10, 2020 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/sievakozinsky/2017/07/24/how-generation-z-is-shaping-the-change-in-education/#2e50dd186520/

Larkin, T. L., Hein, B. R. (2018). 24/7 Connectedness and its Potential Impact on Today’s Physics Students. iJEP 8(2).

Loveland, E. (n.d.). Instant Generation. Retrieved August 10, 2020, from https://www.nacacnet.org/news--publications/journal-of-college-admission/instant-generation/

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National Education Association, Education Policy and Practice Department (2011). An NEA policy brief: Blended Learning. Retrieved from https://www.ewa.org/sites/main/files/pb36blendedlearning2011.pdf./

Sidelinger, R. J., Bolen, D. M., Frisby, B. N., & McMullen, A. L. (2011a). When instructors misbehave: An examination of student-to-student connectedness as a mediator in the college classroom. Communication Education, 60(3), 340-361

Sidelinger, R. K., Bolen, D. M., McMullem, A. L., & Nyeste, M. C. (2015). Academic and social integration in the basic communication courseL Predictors of students’ out-of-class communication and academic learning. Communication Studies, 66(1), 63-84.

The Changing Expectations of Today's Learners. Retrieved August 10, 2020, from https://blog.electrosonic.com/what-educators-need-to-know-about-the-changing-expectations-of-todays-learners

Lintang Tiara

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