08 Nov 2019


Media multitasking, using two or more media concurrently, prevails among adolescents and emerging adults. The inherent mental habits of media multitasking dividing attention, switching attention, and maintaining multiple trains of thought have significant implications and consequences for students’ academic performance. Youth spend more time with media than any other waking activity: an average of 7.5 hours per day, every day.  On average, 29% of that time is spent juggling multiple media streams simultaneously (ie, media multitasking. The ubiquity of media multitasking among today’s students raises concerns about its consequences and outcomes in relation to student learning and cognition.

There is a consensus that existing and emerging digital technologies have the potential to expand the reach and effectiveness of current educational tools. Ongoing advances in digital technology have provided educators with increasingly smaller, affordable and portable digital devices for use as teaching and learning tools in the classroom. Because of the increased availability of new portable digital technologies has made it possible to use these technologies anywhere and anytime, many individuals regularly access and interact with technologies in every context in their lives including the classroom. Although these technologies can be harnessed for positive educational outcomes, recent research suggests that these same digital technologies can impair performance and distract learners if used inappropriately.

Research from multiple parts of the world demonstrates that students, while attempting to learn academic information, frequently engage with media not relevant to the task at hand. A majority of college students in the United States and Israel report using electronic media while in class, studying, or doing homework

Within the University setting, initiatives, often referred to as Anywhere Anytime Learning(AAL), promote the use of digital technologies, especially personal use technologies such as laptops, as a complement to more traditional teaching and learning tools. The newest addition to personalized digital technologies is mobile technologies. These devices, when connected to wireless access to the Internet, offer the promise of shifting learning into even more environments than had been envisioned with laptops. Although many educational systems have quickly embraced digital technologies, the effective inclusion of these technologies into teaching practice has encountered and continues to encounter practical and pedagogical barriers. In addition, the limited extant research provides contradicting evidence regarding the outcomes associated with technology use With respect to multi-tasking, several studies show that when students have access to laptops in the classroom. In-class, mobile phone multitasking during direct instruction is heavily researched, as it is the technology of choice for many university students and the most prevalent.

Students learn less when dividing attention between listening to lectures and interacting with handheld devices, whether sending or receiving text messages or social networking and instant messaging. Doing homework while sending instant messages may not only slow down and degrade performance but also has been reported to negatively impact the learner’s perceived ability to perform homework.  Other data suggest that accuracy on problem-solving homework tasks suffers as students switch more frequently to other computer-based tasks. Inside the classroom, media multitasking is negatively associated with GPA, test performance, information recall, comprehension, and note-taking, especially when students multitask to engage in off-task activities. These effects are not mediated by achievement level and negatively impact non-multitasking peers. Outside of the classroom, media multitasking is also tied to poorer classroom performance along with students predicting less confidence and lower scores.

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