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PISA 2022 results: The impact of digital distractions on classroom learning

PISA 2022 results: The impact of digital distractions on classroom learning

3 min read
  • Phones & technology

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have just released their PISA report of insights and interpretations for 2022. They aim to investigate the reading, mathematic and science attainment of 15-year-olds, with the current edition focusing on mathematical attainment.

We also have 3 other blogs on the PISA 2022 report findings: on the power of curiosity and persistencethe influence of families and caregivers and the potential of AI in education.

In the world of ever-growing technology, we can’t ignore the digitalisation of education and the digital distractions posed by the tech. While these devices can enhance learning when intentionally integrated into education, they also have their drawbacks. They can distract students, expose them to cyberbullying, compromise privacy, and even become addictive.

In fact, the recent PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) 2022 report reveals that 45% of students across OECD countries feel anxious if their phones are not near them. So how much does technology truly distract students and what can we do about it?

Digital distractions: The findings

The use of phones and other digital devices can also impact classroom learning. On average, across OECD countries, 65% of students reported being distracted by using digital devices in at least some Maths lessons (page 33). Just as importantly, across the OECD, 59% of students said their attention was diverted due to other students using phones, tablets or laptops in at least some Maths lessons.

The report also highlights how the amount of time spent on digital devices at school influences learning outcomes. Interestingly, the data suggest that students who use digital devices a little bit can get a learning gain, though “students who used them more than an hour a day for leisure – social media apps, browsing the internet or games – saw a big drop in Maths scores”.

To learn more about the impact mobile phones have on our academic achievement, read our blog on the impact of mobile phone on grades.

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How can we combat digital distractions in schools?

So, how can school address this issue? One possible solution is to ban phones. PISA data shows that in the 13 countries it surveyed, more than two thirds of students attend schools where mobile phone use is prohibited. It was found that the level of distraction in these countries were lower. However, despite the seemingly positive effects of a mobile phone ban, enforcement seems to pose an issue. Even in countries with a mobile phone ban, 29% of students reported using their phone several times a day.

Interestingly, students in schools with phone bans were less likely to turn off their notifications when going to sleep. This suggests that prohibiting mobiles at schools might lead to students being less capable of adopting responsible behaviour in regard to phone use. This is why learning about strategies to manage phones better is so important.

France has recently passed a law which banned students from using their mobile phones at school. Research conducted in England suggesting that this may be a good policy, as the schools involved saw an increase in their grades, especially pronounced in struggling students. Considering the breadth of data, perhaps it is not surprising that the UK is following suit on looking to ban them in schools.

To learn more methods to help reduce phone use, read our blog on the surprisingly easy way to help student use their phone less.

Final thoughts

Its important to highlight the potential that digital devices have to enrich learning experiences and outcomes.

However, their misuse can lead to distractions and negatively impact academic performance. It is crucial for schools to establish clear policies and guidelines on digital device use, focusing on promoting their beneficial use while mitigating their potential to distract. This will help ensure that digital devices serve as effective tools for enhancing learning, rather than impediments to academic success.

If you want to find out more about all the PISA 2022 data, read the 72-page document here.

This blog is part of a series on the PISA 2022 report findings. You can also read about the power of curiosity and persistencethe influence of families and caregivers and the potential of AI in education.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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