The Effects of Multitasking While Learning On Students

multitasking while learningEvery single human being on the planet is inherently capable of multitasking. On countless occasions, we all have done two or more tasks at the same time, particularly when the tasks are menial in nature. While cleaning house, for instance, we listen to music or even watch the kids at the same time. In today’s hi-tech world, watching television is, more often than not, accompanied by texting on smartphones or commenting on social media threads.

While the human mind can easily do these multiple tasks at any given time, there is a big difference when it involves learning multitasking while learning. In an article at Mind/Shift, Annie Murphy Paul writes about how multitasking while learning affects our kids, and the implications are far from encouraging. Read on to see what else she has to say on the subject.

A world of technological distractions

Ms. Paul highlights a study conducted by psychology professor Larry Rosen, where 263 middle school, high school and college students were told to study something important for fifteen minutes. However, they started to text,  check their Facebook feeds and engage in all sorts of technological distractions just two minutes into the test. In the end, they only devoted 65% of their actual time studying.

As if that isn’t alarming enough, Ms. Paul goes on to say that this sort of multitasking while learning among young people is so common that so many of them do their schoolwork that way. Apart from social media feeds, other technological distractions that students often engage in while doing schoolwork include listening to music, watching TV, taking on the phone and browsing the Internet.

Alarming effects of multitasking on students’ learning

The disturbing thing about this observation is that according to evidence from psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience, the effects of multitasking while learning are not that good.  Studying with all these technological distractions is detrimental to learning. When they are multitasking while learning, they tend to understand and remember less, and the work they turn in is typically shabbier and shallower than if they ignored all technological distractions and focused on their work.

Additional research mentioned by Ms. Paul in the article also cite more adverse effects of multitasking on a student’s learning. When they are multitasking while learning, students are distracted and take more time to finish their work. They are also more prone to making mistakes owing to the mental fatigue that switching tasks every so often brings on. With their attention divided between the work at hand and these technological distractions, students have a tough time retaining memory of whatever it is they’re working on. Worst of all, researchers are now finding evidence of a correlation between multitasking while learning and lower grades in school.

What you can do about multitasking while learning

If you’re observing the same things among your own kids, check out what Prof. Rosen has to say about “tech breaks”. If we can’t stop them from multitasking while learning, we should at least get them to do 15 straight minutes of schoolwork, then allow them two minutes to check their Twitter or Facebook feeds or whatever it is they can’t seem to do without these days.

Prof. Rosen maintains that as long as there’s an opportunity to engage in their technological distractions down the road, youths are capable of extending their working time for up to 45 minutes. That sounds like a solid piece of advice that we parents can certainly apply at home with our kids who are often multitasking while learning.

You can read the full article here.

How do you deal with your kids multitasking while learning and how do you deal with the technological distractions in your own life?


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