Texting during class: another moral panic?

Multitasking is something that’s been heavily debated for many years.

Who can do it?

Who shouldn’t do it?

When is it inappropriate?

While multitasking is a part of everyday life, it is increasingly coming under fire for interfering with peoples’ lives.

Specifically, when it comes to young people and learning, many are concerned that having too many electronic ‘distractions’, such as smartphones or laptops, can be detrimental to a person’s ability to achieve.

This is just one of many voices expressing this opinion:

According to Faculty Focus, there have been multiple studies proving a connection between the use of devices in conjunction with learning and decreased academic achievement.

One of the studies referenced, The effect of multitasking on the grade performance of business students, specifically measures the relationship between texting in class and information retention. They divided a class of 62 undergraduate business students in two. Half could text during class, half could not. All students were quizzed at the end of class.

The experiment proved that students who texted during class were more likely to receive lower grades. However, there were several flaws in the experiment. For instance ‘multitasking by texting’ was classified as sending three pre-planned messages to the lecturer.

In my experience, multitasking with a smartphone usually involves more than three, random texts.

However, this study supports multiple studies that say the same thing. There is a massive amount of information and research going into the concept of multi-tasking, and whether students in the digital age are suffering because of it.

However, I think that a lot of this can be boiled down to moral panicGen Y learners: just how concerned should we be? Tells of how there is actually very little representative information about Gen Y, apart from U.S university studies.  A lot of the studies appear to be based around the notion that young people are particularly susceptible to the dangers of new technologies.

However, people forget that students have always been distracted. If it wasn’t Facebook it was passing notes. Instead of playing Candy Crush it was drawing graffiti on the desk. And instead of texting people it was daydreaming.

Devices just provide another avenue to dispel fidgeting, boredom and general lack of interest. It’s not that attention spans that have altered dramatically, it’s just the way that young people these days operate.

Until more studies are done, we really can’t say for sure whether or not multitasking during class affects learning.

 

References:

Ellis, Y, Daniels, B, Jauregui, A 2010, ‘The Effect of Multitasking on the Grade Performance of Business Students’, Research in Higher Education Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 1-10.

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Public Etiquette?

There are more and more ways than ever to make being alone in a public space less awkward. We have phones and iPods and public televisions. There is no reason to engage in people-watching and less chance of making uncomfortable eye-contact with a stranger.

I catch the bus to uni, and it always amazes me how silent it is. It seems that most people travel alone. Occasionally you hear the faint whispering of a person’s earphones. Many people are texting friends or scrolling Instagram. Some of the more inconsiderate people are making phone calls.

There are funny little antisocial behaviours that are expected when you are on a bus. For example, when the bus opens its doors to let more people on,  there is  a spare seat beside beside them, many people, if they weren’t already, find something to do on their phones. They want to appear impassive; not too stand-offish but not too eager.

Fortunately for me, people mostly stay in their own, device-oriented bubble. Bus trips are relatively calm affairs.  However, sometimes, when people start to break the rules, like what happened here, the private bubbles pop, and the event becomes very, very public:

Catching antisocial behaviour on smartphones and posting it to YouTube has become a normal occurrence, and there are thousands of examples.

In many cases, this can be seen as a way of publicly raising issues that need addressing, such as racism on Sydney public transport. It is a positive step in creating change.

However, are there cases when this is unjustified? Does just being in public  mean anyone can take your picture or a video and splash it across the internet?

This quick guide to the legislation regarding photography in public places  says that 95% of the time, you can take a photograph of anyone or anything in a public space, as long as it is not for commercial purposes.

Still, I go to the park not expecting to have my photo taken by a stranger. Regardless of the legislation, there is etiquette in place.  We use our phones to disappear into private space while in public space, but rarely expect images of ourselves in public to be available to anyone other than the people in that space at that time.

It seems, while there is legislation in place, our behaviour in public is dictated by a strong sense of public etiquette.

The main ideas seem to be: don’t attract attention and don’t make eye-contact with strangers.

 

Movie Dates

I’ve been going to the cinema for as long as I can remember. I’ve gone with my sister, my parents and my friends, to see the latest Harry Potter film, catch up on the most recent Disney release, and even just to fill in time.

My local cinema is independent, but surprisingly sophisticated and cheap. There are six different screens, all the same size as some of the larger chain outlets, and they show all the latest releases. They’ve even started doing midnight releases. I can also get an adult ticket, small popcorn and small drink for little over $10. It’s little wonder that cinema-going in my home town is a regular event. It’s not uncommon for people to go and see a movie just for the sake of it, and even watch a favourite movie multiple times while it’s still at the cinema.

Unfortunately, as I soon worked out, it’s not the same everywhere else.

On a recent cinema trip, I took notice of my surroundings, and exactly what it took to organise the trip. I categorised my journey in terms of Torsten Hagerstrand‘s concepts of Time Geography

Capability: The cinema we selected was approximately twenty minutes away from where we lived. We decided to leave 45 minutes early to allow for difficulty parking , the queues inside, and also to drop by the supermarket and pick up some snacks. (this lesson was learnt from past experience).

Coupling: As my two friends and I live together, it was relatively simple to pick a time and drive together. The movie we wanted to see was Guardians of the Galaxy.  As avid Marvel movie fans, we’d been waiting months to see it, but also didn’t want to be part of the crowded rush that is opening night. So we waited until what we thought would be a quiet weekday night. We arrived twenty minutes early, meaning we beat the queues and had plenty of time to sit (up the back of the theatre, of course) and chat before the film started.

 

Authority: This cinema utilised something completely foreign to me with my small-town-cinema upbringing: seat numbers. However, we had visited this cinema before, and no one ever seemed to sit in their allotted seat because there were simply never enough people in the theatre for it to matter. We walked in to discover that there were people already sitting in our allotted seats. Not worried, we sat elsewhere. Unfortunately, this screening was very popular, and we soon had to move so a particularly large group could sit together. A couple behind us were very rudely and loudly told to move by two men whose seats they were sitting in, despite their assertions that someone had already sat in their allotted seats.

What followed was a very tense fifteen minutes, as people slowly filtered into the darkened cinema. We were acutely aware that the same thing that had happened to the couple behind us might happen again. We debated in whispers whether we should go and claim our allotted seats. We knew we weren’t authorised to be in the seats we were, and it made us uncomfortable.

None of us relaxed until twenty minutes into the film.

There is a lot of speculation about the future of the film industry. Many have warned that the increase of movie pirating will ruin cinema going. However, according t Screen Australia, cinema admissions have been fairly steady over the last decade, while box office intake has, mostly, been increasing.

So the facts do not back the statement.

As for the future, I think cinema going will still be popular for a long time. There are lots of different reason people go to the cinema, not just to see the film. They go with their friends to socialise, to experience the films they do want to see in their optimum environment, and to  have something to do on a first date.

Cinema isn’t going anywhere just yet.

 

Left behind

There have been big changes in Elizabeth’s life in the last few weeks. Instead of being on 8GB of internet data per month, they have been upgraded to 15. In a house of 4, including two teenagers, it’s been a struggle to balance work and homework with personal interests.

Source: ABS Household Internet Access
Source: ABS Household Internet Access

This upgrade has not been without a hefty fee however. The family now pays $115 for 15GB.

The reason for this is that Elizabeth lives on a farm. It’s only twenty minutes away from the nearest town, but even this short distance makes a big difference. It’s hard to keep up with the rest of the world when they all have unlimited, high speed broadband, and you’re stuck in the early 2000s with internet that appears to enjoy failing at the most inconvenient times.

But Elizabeth’s internet access hasn’t always been this bad. Not even five years ago, they had 25GB for the family, for a much lower cost of $50 a month. They are now paying more than double for a bit over half as much data. They used to be able to use YouTube, download plenty of music, and browse whatever their hearts desired, without fear of running out of data only two weeks into the month.

Unfortunately, while the internet was great when it was working, it wasn’t always working. There were several factors that guaranteed an internet shut down. Rain was one of them. It didn’t have to be heavy rain, or any rain at all. Even an overcast day would be enough to trigger the ominous orange ‘no internet’ light on the router. Snow was another obvious one, as were moderate to high winds.

Of course, sometimes the internet stopped working for no particular reason at all. It appeared to particularly dislike weekends, and would regularly stop working around close of business on a Friday. This meant that there was no one in the provider’s office until Monday, meaning the internet was out all weekend. Nevermind those big school assignments.

These hiccups started off as quite sporadic, but gradually got more frequent, until it was more common to not have internet than to have it. Family members began habitually checking the router as they wandered past. A sighting of the green ‘internet is on’ light triggered a house-wide panic to snatch as many devices up as possible to check emails, Facebook, download that song you’d been wanting for a week, look up and open tabs of research for assignments and whatever other webpages you needed.

Eventually, despite the best efforts of the internet provider, it was concluded that, for whatever reason, Elizabeth’s household could no longer be connected to the internet by this provider.

And so began the long summer of 2013-14. The household went three months without any home internet connection. They relied on mobile data, and free wi-fi from cafes, maccas and shopping centres.

Like many Australian families, they were curious about the National Broadband Network, or NBN. They’d heard great things. It was going to revolutionise their ability to connect and participate online. No more of the sub-standard services they’d had so far. Something like this clip describes.

 

However, when Elizabeth’s husband inquired about it, he was told not to bother. The NBN was horribly oversubscribed in their area, making it very slow, and, at times, almost impossible to use. Another satellite was to be launched in a few years, but until then, Elizabeth’s family were better off going to BigPond, Australia’s largest provider.

Unfortunately, because Telstra (owner of BigPond) is the largest network in Australia, with the widest reaching service, they can charge quite large amounts. And that brings us to Elizabeth’s current situation: paying $115 for 15GB.

The service is reliable, but makes life very difficult. In this day and age, it is hard to keep up with everyday life without the internet.

In fact, many Australian households do not have a broadband connection at all, 17% in fact according to a 2012-13 ABS report. Add on top of this the many unknown people who cannot afford or access much more than a few gigabytes, and there are a great many people in Australia who are being left behind Australia and the rest of the world.

According to Alan Kohler (2014) in The Reality of the NBN, a family in Brunswick (inner Melbourne) which was connected to the NBN, gets unlimited, high speed data and phonecalls for $115, the same price Elizabeth’s family pays for a measly 15GB.

Is this how it’s going to be? The NBN (if it even continues as planned), will make the lives of those in the capital cities even easier, while those in more ‘difficult’ areas are further disadvantaged? Elizabeth is just one of thousands.

Apparently, all we can do is wait and dream of the future, and the crazy possibilities there might be if there was, one day, decent internet.

 

References:

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014, Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2012-13, cat. no. 8146.0, ABS, Canberra.

Kohler, A 2014, ‘The reality of the NBN’, Business Spectator, 17 March, viewed 23 August, <http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2014/3/17/technology/reality-nbn>.

 

 

 

Popularity Contest

All media producers want to know who their audience is. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Title: Audience at a Frontier Fiesta show

There are lots of different ways to measure audiences. In Australia, Unitam is installed in thousands of homes to measure how many people are watching which shows. GFK is set to take over measuring radio audiences, incorporating a new online element.

But what happens when it comes to measuring online audiences?

When it comes to social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, its easy to tell how many friends or followers you have. The number is often used to gauge a person or organisation’s influence.

But how accurate is this? Does having a thousand Facebook friends mean that you’re more influential than someone with only two hundred?

Many people disagree.

Klout appears to be offering a different perspective.

For a quick introduction to the concept, watch this:

 

Klout goes beyond just looking at social media audiences in terms of their numbers. It cross-references Twitter and Facebook and other major social networks, to measure a person’s actual influence.

Each person gets a score out of 100, with 100 having the highest influence. This is based on how active you are on social media, how your followers/friends respond to you, as well as how many of them there actually are.

My face when I found out my Klout score

Even if I tweeted and retweeted all day long,  if no one was retweeting or mentioning me, my score would not be very high. This would probably be because what I was saying was not relevant or interesting.

Whereas someone like Kim Kardashian, who has millions of followers who are very interested in what she’s up to, would have a higher score (it’s 88, to be precise).

Barack Obama has a score of 99. This makes sense.

Obviously, there are flaws in the system. Just because a follower doesn’t retweet you doesn’t mean you don’t influence them. And, just because someone retweets you, it doesn’t mean you are actually impacting them.

However, it represents a significant step towards combining quantitative and qualitative data.

If you’ll excuse me, I have to go improve my Klout score.

 

 

 

The moon landing and the farm girl

Elizabeth can’t remember when exactly her family got a television. She does remember that there were only two channels (the ABC and the commercial station) and that her grandparents got a colour television before her family did. This was something of a big deal, and she recalls the excitement she felt when her and her family got to visit.

Elizabeth grew up  in rural NSW, where her parents ran a dairy farm. She and her two sisters were expected to help out when needed.

Television wasn’t a big part of Elizabeth’s childhood: there were no shows they watched as a family. Dad was always too busy on the farm. But she does remember Sunday nights with her cousins, sprawled in front of the TV watching Countdown. 

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, television played a very different role in Elizabeth’s life compared to what it does now.

One of Elizabeth’s most vivid memories is of watching the first moon landing in 1969. She was seven years old at the time. The teachers gathered all the infants children in the hall, ready to witness one of the most historic moments in all of human history.

The screen was very small, and I was very far away from it,” she recalls, “and the image was not very good.”

There were a couple of hundred students in that hall. Elizabeth could barely see a thing, but it is something she’s never forgotten.

Imagine watching this footage from a distance of twenty metres, on a screen not much bigger than that of your laptop, in a room filled with excited children.

Nowadays, as a primary school teacher herself, she and her small class of students have a SmartBoard all to themselves. They can easily look up the moon landing on YouTube, and watch it on a screen that is half as tall as the wall on which it stands. Even though Elizabeth was only seven, it has stuck in her mind. The first moon landing is one of the great moments, and one of the first, where an enormous amount of people from all over the world watched history unfold together.

Elizabeth recalls another night in her life. She was living with her sister at the time, but one night, found she couldn’t sleep. She wandered through to the TV only to hear the breaking news, that Space Shuttle Challenger had disintegrated, not even five minutes into its flight. As she remembers, it was the first global disaster she’d watched unfold from the beginning.

Like many people around the world, she watched Princess Diana’s funeral, and awoke to watch the horror of 9/11.

For her, what she remembers most about television are the global events that were broadcast. To her, television is, first and foremost, a way to connect with the rest of the world. Whether it be through tragedy or a victory for humanity, television brought the rest of the world into her home.

Many people feel this connection between television and interaction with others. For many families, like Elizabeth’s, television became a way to spend time together. For others, it completely altered the family dynamics.

Nevertheless, television has made a huge imprint upon the lives of people around the world. Everyone has a story to tell.

Elizabeth’s story is just one of billions.

 

 

 

 

Note: Elizabeth preferred not to have her real name revealed for privacy reasons

 

Holiday Blues

I’ve never travelled before. Until a month ago I had kept my feet firmly planted on the Australian continent for almost twenty years. But last month I decided that enough was enough, and got myself on a plane to Europe.

Naturally, I had the time of my life. I saw all the famous sites and met a wonderful group of people.

But now, I’m back home, and I’m faced with the depressing reality of everyday life and a sadly depleted bank account.

My life right now
My life right now

But perhaps my biggest grievance at the moment is that all the friends I made are scattered around Australia and the world, and the only way to contact them is via Facebook.

To be completely honest, I’m not normally a ‘Facebook person’, but since stepping off the plane, my phone has barely left my hand. At every spare moment, I’ve been checking for messages, holiday photos, posts in our group Facebook page and just general updates on my companions’ lives.

My media habits have been completely changed by my experiences. I rely on Facebook more than ever before to keep me in touch with my distant friends.

Strangely, I’m using both my laptop and my phone to connect to Facebook, almost simultaneously. Usually it’s one or the other.

Its as if my phone and laptops are portals back to my sunny, happy holiday and all the people I met.

Everything and anything about all types of media.