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This is Maura Thomas from RegainYourTime.com. This is part three of my interview with Charles Palmer, the Executive Director of the Center for Advanced Entertainment & Learning Technologies, of Harrisburg University of Science & Technology. Please click the link at the top of the page to read the earlier parts.

Please click below to hear the transcript, and come back tomorrow and in the coming days to read or listen to the rest of the interview.

Palmer Interview Segment 3

MT: I interrupted you when you said that you, you were talking about the focus groups and what the result of the focus groups was.

CP: Yeah, we had a number of students that said, “yeah, it didn’t really impact my day-to-day life.”  We had a few students who said, “wow, this was really hard.”  One student in particular that I spoke with a couple of times said this experience had shown him that he really does check FaceBook about ten…every 10 minutes.  Whether through his phone or through his laptop, and that was eye-opening for him to really put it in perspective and say why…our big question was if you did not refrain from it, what was it that you felt the need…why did you feel the need to be so engaged in what was out there and being online and being on FaceBook.  Some students openly admitted, some of it was ego.  It was being the first to find something and post it to all their friends.  Being on top of all the information that was going on in their circle.  Just staying connected, and a number of students also said when they weren’t doing it they felt like they were missing something, that something was going on that they were not going to be able to respond to in 30 seconds.  So that was very interesting for them.  Academically, they were able to get access to everything that they were using in class.  We use a content management…um, a learning management system so that didn’t really prevent them from getting access there, but a number of students found that on the opposite side of FaceBook is…at least in my eyes, is LinkedIn, which is a  professional network.  We had a number of students who said, “hey, wow, I miss LinkedIn…I miss being able to pose questions to my own community of people to get professional-based responses back, or to get feedback on my resume…” or those sorts of things.  So we got the spectrum.  Myself, I actually, I took it a little further and I cut it out for the entire week.  Home, work, smartphone, I did nothing.  No social media.  And it was very interesting.  I definitely got the, “oh my gosh, what’s going on in the world, I have no idea.”  I found myself watching local news more often.  Just to…I think Twitter is my primary news outlet.

MT: Mine too.

CP: For finding out what’s going on out there.  And that was one of the things that I missed considerably.  And I realize that I’m not a FaceBook person.  I really didn’t miss FaceBook that much and since being back, since the ban, I very rarely post things on FaceBook.  But Twitter, Twitter is my tool of choice.

MT: So were there any surprises, or any unexpected results or consequences?

CP: You know, in all honesty, all of it was a surprise.  Because we really didn’t know what we would get out of it.  Like I said, the students who made a revelation that, “oh my gosh, I’m using FaceBook so much…” I think that was a surprise to us, that students would make that relationship, that connection, between how much they were using it in their life.  And another thing was a number of students saying, “wow, I check FaceBook in class very frequently.  That’s probably not a good thing.”  Faculty as well, seeing that…you know, we’re a laptop campus and when we see a student’s laptop open, we assume that they are following along with the lecture, or looking up additional information related to the lecture and to hear them, you know, spout that that’s not what they’re doing is very eye-opening for us and something that we need to think about as an institution as we build our culture.

MT: Does the university plan anything further as a result of the experiment?

CP: Yeah, we did this and now have said, “ok, there is something there.”  We’re trying to plan something nine or ten months out where we’ll take a…this is all…we’re not sure what format this is going take, but we’ll do something a little more rigid, a little more procedural, with a lot of facts in place, and, you know, a little more scientific I guess you could say, of removing people from it and having questionnaires, and doing a lot more in-depth study. Definitely not the entire student body, we’ll probably get volunteers to do it but we’ll probably do it for a much longer period of time.  We know, just reading some of the other research, it takes most humans and animals 21 days or so to change a behavior.  I was surprised that within a week, we did have some people that would…at least…focused on their habits and were thinking differently about them, but we think in a longer time period we probably could get people to change how they use things and….but I don’t want to push it too far because we’re not sure if we want to change.  I think really what we want to do is we want exposure, people to understand what’s out there, what’s available and how it affects them.

MT: So this realization that some students have about how much they check FaceBook in class, do you think that that realization came with…sort of the self-policing to say, “wow, I didn’t realize how much I was doing it, I probably shouldn’t be doing it?”  Or do you think there were some students saying, “yeah, I do it all the time because class is boring and I’m so mad that their not letting me do it.” Or, or because, you know, “I can listen and check FaceBook at the same time, I can handle this and I don’t know why they’re not letting me.”

CP: I think the majority of students say, “hey I can handle this.”  Or were opened up to the idea of the experiment, but said, you know, “it’s not really a problem for me.”  And then we did have a number of students, or a couple of students in the focus group that said, “wow, you know what, I was dividing my attention.  Now that I’m not dividing my attention, it really does make a difference in class.  You know, I do feel more engaged and I am retaining some of this knowledge better.”  I was very happy to hear students vocalize that.  And it was a small number of students, but… and sometimes you take it with a grain of salt.  These were students…students talking in a forum with other students and sometimes faculty as well, so you can always…actually no, I’m sorry, those were all done just with students, and a facilitator.  But I’m always cautious when a student tells you something that you want to hear.

MT: Right.

CP: So it was good to hear a couple students say that and walk away at the end of the week saying, “hey, I think I’ve done a little more focus on my studies this week.  Maybe shying away from FaceBook so much during class is a good idea and maybe I’ll check it between classes or lunch or something.”

Please come back tomorrow for part 4 of my interview with Charles Palmer of Harrisburg University.  Thanks for reading!

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