Use of smartphone while learning

Theo Compernolle (neuropsychiatrist) spoke in a broadcast of Newshour on 4 July 2022 on Dutch television about the consequences of using smartphones during learning (in class and when doing homework). He mentioned a number of variables there that could be the reason that the current generation of young people is finding it increasingly difficult to learn. Theo Compernolle indicated in the broadcast that he was seriously concerned about this.

The various variables (and a few more) are mapped out here.

Causal loop diagram

[Ctrl] Click on the image to make it interactive

By clicking on a variable (circle), the explanation about the variable appears on the right.

Explanation Variable

Relationships between variables are indicated by arrows.

Arrow indicators Causal loop diagram

By clicking Play
each variable can become more (up arrow) or less (down arrow).

Play Causal-loop-diagram

The average value of a variable is indicated by the circle in the middle. This value can increase (larger colored circle) and decrease (smaller colored circle).

Variable full CLD Variable less CLD

Let’s assume that screen time increases (variable Smartphone), see what the result is…

Play more smartphone use
More smartphone use (screen time) therefore has a negative effect on learning. The mult-tasking causes more stress, less concentration and therefore less effectiveness of learning. It also causes less rest, less focus, more failures, less competention, less motivation and – again, less effectiveness of learning.

Let’s change and use smartphones less:
Play less smartphone use

You see, effectiveness of learning is much more. More rest, more focus, more concentration. Even less failures, better competention and more motivation, witch also causes more effective learning.

Increasing use of the smartphone leads to more online contacts and vice versa (loop RI). It also results in fragmented work on many tasks. This may lead to less rest and more feelings of stress. These two variables mutually influence each other (R2). Less rest and more feelings of stress lead to less focus and less concentration. They also influence each other vice versa (R3). These variables reduce the effectiveness of learning and thus lead to more mistakes. The number of errors is also adversely affected by lack of focus. More mistakes leads to less sense of competence, less sense of competence will contribute to less motivation. This will further reduce the effectiveness of learning. The number of real (offline) contacts is decreasing due to various factors. Increasing online contacts and being too busy with anything and everything are just a few.

Note: a causal loop like this is always a drastic simplification of reality. There are always many more variables and connections that play a role. (the map is not the whole area)

Do you think there is something wrong, please contact me.

If you are concerned like Theo Compernolle, please share.



2 Replies to “Use of smartphone while learning”

  1. Ha Robert, ik merk dat de smartphone veel invloed heeft op de studieresultaten. Wat kun je er als docent aan doen? Zijn er hulpmiddelen om smartphonegebruik te ontmoedigen buiten deze causale loop?

    1. Hoi Gerard, De causale lus over het smartphone gebruik geeft wel aan wat de gevolgen zijn, maar niet hoe je dat gebruik kunt ontmoedigen (wel dat je het zou moeten ontmoedigen.) Hulpmiddelen om te ontmoedigen, zijn er natuurlijk wel. Het belangrijkste is misschien wel dat je zo mogelijk de smartphone zou moeten gebruiken in de les en bij het huiswerk. Dan moet je wel boeiende activiteiten ermee doen. Tegelijkertijd zou je studenten moeten leren leren. Als zij weten dat ze slechter leren als ze continu afgeleid worden, helpt dat zeker. De werkelijkheid is misschien nog wel iets gecompliceerder. Maar, leuk om zo even te sparren. Groeten, Robert

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