Wednesday, February 12, 2014

College Student's Cell Phone Use and a Theology of Technology

Review: College Students’ Cell Phone Use, Beliefs, and Effects on Learning, College Student Journal, 2013, Vol. 47, No 4, December, Elder.

The 2013 ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology found 74% of responding students have their "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) experiences banned or discouraged (ECAR, 2013). Dr. Anastasia Elder, associate professor of psychology at Mississippi State published her research in the December 2013 College Student Journal (full text available through LETU EBSCOhost at As Dr. Elder admits, this topic needs additional research beyond her work. The digital age we find ourselves in tends to encourage an attitude where these devices in the classroom are considered as distractions rather than a useful tool that can be used to enhance education. Microsoft’s 2014 Super Bowl Ad appeals to our emotions toward those helpful uses ( In an institution of higher learning, can teaching and learning be accomplished well in a BYOD age? Should we take the dystopian view and ban or discourage all technology use in the classroom? Is the utopian view the only alternative? Recently, the Barna Group, a group known for their reporting and statistics especially among evangelical Christians, held their first Barna Frames conference (  Several staff  from LETU attended and the DVD and books are available for review. One of the sessions spoke of a need for a Theology of Technology. Does our faith speak to us in this digital age? As we claim our own workspaces and we encourage our students to learn to claim their own as their mission field, I would argue yes, we need a Theology of Technology.

Dr. Elder speaks of several things that can begin to frame our discussion. She speaks of “college students (and other frequent users of cell phones in varied contexts) … becoming better at multi-tasking….”  (p. 1). Her hypothesis that students who used their cell phones while in lecture would not retain as much information as those who did not was not supported by this study. When given a test on an unfamiliar topic, the performance of students multi-tasking on a cell phone did not suffer. She details many of her conclusions as to why this may be and several caveats related to the need for a more comprehensive and specific research on this topic.

I’d like to encourage you to be part of this research. The CITL is working on several topics and additional proposals in several areas. Would you join us in creating a Theology of Technology, bringing to our colleagues journal articles and other research like Dr. Elder’s? We can all learn and grow together and continue to see our workplace as our mission field with eternal value.

Matthew Henry
Dean of Innovation Education CITL

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