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Texting Becomes New Marshmallow Test

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I’ve often written in this post and in my books about how I use the “marshmallow test” in lessons on self-control (see The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control).

Today, Sarah Sparks at Education Week has written an article providing new information for a great addition to those lessons.

Here’s the excerpt that is perfect:

Texting seems to have become the new “marshmallow test” for older students, and with similar results.

In a 2011 study, researchers led by Mr. Rosen, who is a psychology professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills, randomly assigned 185 young college students with A and B grade averages to watch a video lecture, on which they knew they would be tested. During critical sections of the lecture, the researchers texted each student either four or eight times with questions that had nothing to do with the lecture and asked them to respond “promptly,” or did not text them at all.

Students who received eight text messages scored more than 10 percent lower on the test, about the equivalent of a full letter grade.
Yet students’ response times to the text messages made a big difference in how well they did. Students who answered the texted questions within five minutes of receiving them—while the critical material was presumably being discussed—answered 75 percent or fewer correct on the test, while those who held off five minutes or more scored 85 percent correct.

Researchers led by Fang-Yi Flora Wei, an assistant broadcast communications professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Bradford, Pa., campus, likewise found students with greater self-control were less likely to text in class and more likely to attend to content. Ms. Wei’s study is published in the April issue of the journal of the National Communication Association, Communication Education.

The whole article is definitely worth reading, and includes links to all the cited studies. Once I create an addendum to my previous lessons, I’ll try it out with students and publish it here. I suspect it will really resonate with them.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

3 Comments

  1. Although I do text, I use it sparingly, and I don’t feel obligated to answer quickly. But I know many of my friends check their phones almost continuously. I heard of a bet where, when friends go out to dinner, they all place their phones in a stack, face-down. The first person to check their phone has to pay for the meal.

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