Watch: Attention Test (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo)
There is no question that we are accustomed to having our personal devices at our fingertips, but if we want to make responsible decisions about how and when to use them we need to look at the research. When I have this conversation with my students I start by making this point: "If you cannot do something as simple as walking, how could you possibly do something so complicated as learning?" Then, for fun, I play this video:
Watch: Texting While Walking Accidents (http://youtu.be/wl0JojWH1rQ)
Now lets look at some of the research that has been conducted on the effect using phones and laptops in classroom settings has on learning.
Watch: OpenPSYC - Digital Distractions (http://youtu.be/WwPaw3Fx5Hk)
The OpenPSYC video above mentions the concern that a student with distracting content on a laptop screen might be interfering with the learning of others. Sana, Weston and Cepeda (2013) conducted a controlled experiment in which participants viewed a 45 minute presentation and took notes with a pencil and paper. Using random assignment, half of the participants were seated behind two students who were using laptops to take notes and, periodically, to check Facebook, email, and other websites. When given a test on what they had learned from the presentation, the participants who were not distracted scored an average of 73% on the quiz. Those sitting behind distracted peers, on the other hand, only scored a 56% on average. This study provides some evidence that the "cone of distraction" is in fact a real problem in our classrooms.
Ultimately it is up to each individual instructor to establish his or her own classroom policies, and when devices are permitted it is up to each student to make responsible decisions.