When I worked at a different institution, I sometimes heard people say that we should not keep students from multitasking, because that’s how students today learn. The current generation of students grew up in a world surrounded by technology, and using technology has become part of their lives as much as eating and sleeping. In class, students may simultaneously be using social media and text messaging, and yet they could be on task and spell the most difficult foreign words at the same time. This is a case where it may be difficult to tell students “you could have done better if you hadn’t done these things.” It seems to be difficult to evaluate the disadvantages and the effects of multitasking, yet it’s not too difficult at the same time.

From 2008 to 2012, there were five research studies that examined the impact on learning when multitasking. Theresults showed that students who multitask in class did significantly poorer than students who did not multitask. Dr. Maryellen Weimer wrote a blog post on this subject.  He summarized the five studies in the blog post. If you are interested in more details, the citations are below.

Ellis, Y., Daniels, W. and Jauregui, A. (2010). The effect of multitasking on the grade performance of business students. Research in Higher Education Journal, 8.  (PDF)

Kraushaar, J. M. and Novak, D. C. (2010). Examining the affects of student multitasking with laptops during lecture. Journal of Information Systems Education, 21 (2), 241-251.

Bowman, L. L., Levine, L. E., Waite, B. M. and Dendron, M. (2010). Can students really multitask? An experimental study of instant messaging while reading. Computers & Education, 54, 927-931.

Barak, L. (2012). Multitasking in the university classroom. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 6 (2).

Fried, C. B. (2008). In-class laptop use and its effects on student learning. Computers and Education, 50 (3), 906-914.

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