Research Presentation: Caitlin Fernandez

Cell Phones and the Destruction of Memory and Recall and the Restructuring of Future School Education

Caitlin Fernandez

With the technological advancement and aid of cell phones, are humans able to remember ideas, moments, or information as well as we were able to before the advancement of cell phones? Furthermore, is this type of memorization important in today’s society and how does this affect the future of teaching?


Memory loss, recall, education


Based on my research, I will argue that cell phones are not only destroying one’s ability to memorize and recall facts but they will also completely restructure the future of education.


  • Memory is defined as the ability to recall ideas, moments, and information.
  • Cell phones are defined as a mobile device which has the general functions and ability to save and look up information.


My daily routine begins with me reaching for my iPhone to turn off the ringing alarm at 8:30 in the morning. I then swipe down from the top of my screen and click on the weather icon to see how I need to dress for the day. After that, I open my calendar to see what obligations and at what times. Finally, I check my email and Facebook to see if I have missed anything while I was sleeping so I am fully prepared and aware of everything that is about to happen. All of these steps occur before I even get out of bed in the morning.

Cell Phone Usage

Not only do I use my cell phone for the above mentioned functions, but I regularly use it for the notepad feature to add items to my grocery list as I realize I need them, the reminder feature to save anything I know I will forget otherwise, the calculator, the clock, the messaging feature, the internet, music, games, and social media. Finally, I also use it to make calls, but this is my least frequently used feature. This cell phone literally is my life. When it is dying or dead I feel a sense of panic or left out, let alone bored.

Earlier today I was in the Schiffert waiting room with about six other people. There are signs posted everywhere that say “Please keep cell phones off while waiting” but as I looked around I noticed that every single person, myself included, was playing on their phones. This became even more blatantly obvious once my phone reached 3% battery and I had to stop playing with it for fear that it would die completely. The 10 minutes of waiting without my phone felt immensely longer than the 20 minutes of waiting with it. My reliance on this technology became more and more obvious the longer I sat there, and I am not alone.

Without my cell phone I would not be able to spell since I rely on autocorrect to fix any minor errors I have. I would have any idea where I was supposed to be since everything is saved in my calendar. I would not know how to get anywhere since I rely so heavily on the navigation feature. One major change I have noticed in myself because of my constant cell phone use is a loss of confidence. For example, I may have driven to a friend’s house several times using my GPS, meaning I am pretty sure I know how to get there, but because it is so easy to pull up the navigation system on my phone, I automatically program the house again and do not trust myself to get there without it. The same goes for the use of the internet. I can be pretty sure I know a fact, but why go out on a limb and possibly be wrong about it if I can pull up Google Chrome and search it within ten seconds? There is no reason to – the technology makes it so that we do not need to know these facts off the top of our heads anymore. As the textbook says, “Now if you want to know something, you go online. If you want to make what you’ve learned widely accessible, you go online” (Weinberger, 5). These blanket statements summarize human tendencies when using both cell phones and the internet in general – if you do not know something, you go online to find it out.

According to the article Are Mobile Phones Making Us Dumber? “The online study, carried out by ResearchNow on behalf of CPP, reveals that four out of five Britons aren't able to recall a telephone number after just five seconds, while a total of 23 million Britons don't know their partner's mobile number off by heart, and 30 million aren't able to remember their best friend's number” (James). The article also states that ““As technology gets more sophisticated, our own memories are on the decline as we increasingly rely on information stored on phones and online,” said psychologist Dr Glenn Wilson” (James). These facts indicate that heavy reliance on the technology is dangerous and potentially detrimental to our future ability to remember. It also states that “Interestingly, our ability to store landline phone numbers mentally is significantly stronger than for mobiles – 92 per cent of those asked were able to quote their home number from memory, and 60 per cent knew their parents' number” (James). I find this fact quite interesting because I partially agree with it – I know my mom and my dad’s home phone numbers as well as my dad’s old home phone number and my three childhood best friends’ numbers. It seems that I am able to remember any number (landline or cell phone) that I learned before I had a cell phone to store it in or that I learned early enough that I did not yet rely on my phone. I do not believe there is a difference between cell phone and landline memorization other than the fact that the landline has probably had the same number for longer and even possibly before cell phones were a large part of human life.


In elementary school, the focus is always on memorization. We memorize how to spell words, we memorize historical dates, and we memorize different types of clouds or rocks or other scientific information. Middle school and the majority of high school is the same way. In a few classes we are encouraged to use creative or analytical thinking as we get older, but the majority of the time this is not the case. With technology making it so that memorization is no longer important, the focus of school teachings will change dramatically in upcoming years. I personally believe that the only areas that will continue to be focused on are creativity and possibly the use and advancement of technology – although if you can Google search how to use your new phone, is it really important to take a class on it? Math and history classes will be completely ancient and replaced. School may no longer even be an important or regular occurrence for children of the future. The book also states that “We are inescapably facing the fact that the world is too big to know. And as a species we are adapting. Our traditional knowledge-based institutions are taking their first hesitant steps on land, and knowledge is beginning to show its new shape” (Weinberger, 13).

According to “Three Trends That Define the Future of Teaching and Learning” (Barseghian) the future of teaching must be collaborative, tech-powered, and blended. The article states “School programs are built around teaching how to create video games. Teachers are using Guitar Hero, geo-caching (high-tech scavenger hunt), Google maps for teaching literature, Wii in lieu of P.E., VoiceThread to communicate, ePals and LiveMocha to learn global languages with native speakers, Voki to create avatars of characters in stories, and Skype to communicate with peers from all over the world — even augmented reality, connecting students to virtual characters. And that’s just a tiny sampling” (Barseghian). Since using these technologies enables us to excite students, they are more likely to be engaged in the assignments and learn more from them.

Additionally, “According to the New York Times Bits blog, a recent study funded by the US Department of Education (PDF) found that on the whole, online learning environments actually led to higher tested performance than face-to-face learning environments. “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction," concluded the report's authors in their key findings” (Catone). While the reason for this is unknown, it is likely that students who are taking the online class at home are more likely to sit down and pay attention to the lecture or information since they are able to do it on their own time than those who are sitting in a classroom distracting themselves with their cell phones.

While the above articles discuss the use of cell phones on practical application and memory, the following study researched the use of cell phones on undergraduate GPA. “Participants completed a survey about their cell phone use and also reported their grade point average. Results revealed that text messaging frequency was negatively correlated with grade point average and variables such as academic level while cell phone call frequency was not. The results of this study suggest that the more an individual sends or receives text messages, the lower his or her grade point average typically is. Surprisingly, individuals with higher grade point averages are more comfortable text messaging in class. No significant results were found in regards to individuals placing phone calls on cell phones” (Harman). With the integrated use of cell phones in classrooms, I expect that the above statistics may change in the near future. I also believe further research should be done on other types of cell phone use in class – such as social media, playing games, and checking emails.


According to the class text Too Big to Know, throughout history “Knowledge has been about reducing what we need to know” (Weinberger, 4). Based on this theory, cell phones are increasing the human populations’ general knowledge. “Our system of knowledge is a clever adaptation to the fact that our environment is too big to be known by any one person. A species that gets answers and can then stop asking is able to free itself for new inquiries” (Weinberger, 21). We need to know less information because we have a cell phone to use as a secondary hard drive to save information so we no longer need to store it in our brain, while we are able to access more information at a moment’s notice than ever before.


Barseghian, Tina. "Three Trends That Define the Future of Teaching and Learning."MindShift. MindShift, 28 Dec. 2011. Web. 19 Mar. 2013. <>.

Catone, Josh. "What Is the Future of Teaching?" Mashable. N.p., 31 Aug. 2009. Web. 19 Mar. 2013. <>.

Harman, Brittany A. "Cell Phone Use and Grade Point Average Among Undergraduate University Students." Cell Phone Use and Grade Point Average Among Undergraduate University Students. Project Innovation (Alabama), Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.

James, Martin. "Are Mobile Phones Making Us Dumber?" IT PRO. IT PRO, 14 July 2010. Web. 19 Mar. 2013. <>.

Weinberger, David. Too Big to Know. New York: Basic, 2011. Print.