In a recent post at the Engaging Minds blog, we discussed the ways that smartphone use in class can either distract students from learning, or serve as a learning tool. There, we revealed that 77% of students bring a smartphone to class, and 63% of the students said that they weren’t a distraction. On the other hand, 72% of instructors said that they do distract students from the learning process.

This discovery led us to wonder: Just what are students doing with their smartphones in class? For this reason, we reached back out to students who use and asked them: What are you typically doing when you’re using your phone in class? Over 3,100 students responded, and we’ve shared the results below. You may or may not be altogether surprised by the findings… but, knowing this information can help you address the types of issues that might arise in your classroom as a result.

What students are doing with smartphones in class

What students are doing with their smartphones in class

* Note: numbers in chart may not total 100% due to rounding.


What can you do to help students focus in class?

Though some instructors decide to ban digital tools from their classrooms, others want to use them as a tool for engagement. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in doing, here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • It’s fairly quick and easy to search for information using your smartphone… even a browser app will work for that purpose. But if you want students to find more reliable resources, direct them to research apps that enable them to access reputable sources. For ideas, check out the Questia app or Gale’s Access My Library.
  • Think about the ways you want students to communicate and collaborate in class. Then, consider what types of apps might help you facilitate the process. As an example: do your students work on projects together in class? Suggest that they use one of many free apps that allow them to share their notes and continue collaborating when class is over.
  • Find out what your students enjoy using! Start a discussion board post that prompts students to name, describe, and evaluate the apps they use for learning and studying. If any sound appealing to you, you might find a way to try them out within a class activity.
  • As we mentioned previously, we know that not all students will have smartphones; so, if you decide to implement any of these ideas in your course, consider setting students up in groups, and ensure that at least one student can access the app while in school.

How do you see students using smartphones in class? Have you found a way to use smartphones as a tool for engagement? Share your insights and ideas in the comments!