Multitasking is something that has become a necessity in our lives. Multitasking is a requirement, and we often do it without even realising. Driving for example, changing gears and head-checks are both prime examples of multi-tasking in everyday life. Technology in the classroom has grown immensely over the last 5 or so years. There has been a shift away from physical materials, pens and paper towards e-books, and taking notes on laptops and tablet devices.
These devices make it easier than it ever has been to access information, images, scholarly articles and anything else you can think of. This is obviously a benefit to education, having everything there to be read, critiqued and discussed makes the life of any university student a whole lot easier than it was 10 years ago when you would have to scour the library from head to toe to find the right article to help you make a point or inform your decision on an issue.
This information-overload of sorts can also lead to as many distractions as it can useful tid bits of information.
I’m sure plenty of you are the same as me when it comes to distractions and multitasking in the class setting. I guarantee every lecture I go to, I find my usual seat, sit down and then jump straight on Facebook, or somewhere else online and dedicate basically all my energy to that instead. This clear dedication to the lecture is something that is pretty common throughout the developed world, and after researching I found a study that directly compared the use of technology during school hours and study time on the GPA of American students.
The study by Reynol Junco and Shelia R. Cotton surveyed 1839 students in the United States about their use of Facebook, Text Messaging, searching for information unrelated to the course (EG Online Shopping or Holidays), Emailing and Instant Messaging, and used this data to determine if their usage had any effect on their schoolwork. To what I’m sure is no-ones surprised, the access and usage of these technologies did lead to a lower overall GPA, with the study stating…
“attempting to pay attention to Facebook and text messaging was related to poorer academic outcomes in both [in and out of the classroom]”
With this in mind, maybe we would all be better off not taking our phones, laptops and tablets to class, or should we just try and control ourselves for the one hour it takes to actually sit in a lecture and listen?
Junco R, Cotton SR, 2012, ‘No A 4 U: The relationship between multitasking and academic performance’, Computers & Education, vol. (59), no. (2), pp. 505-514.