Can Students Really Multi-task?

Students in Computer Lab

A couple of nights ago, as I was falling asleep in front of the TV, I caught part of a PBS program on about the prevalence of electronic devices in our daily lives. The segment I was watching focused on very high-achieving students at MIT and Stanford and their inseparability from their laptops, tablets, iPhones, and other electronic communications devices on campus. As a high school teacher, I was somewhat horrified to see how freely they use these devices in classes, lectures, etc. The assumption is that they are used as aids to note-taking and comprehension. Professors don’t seem to mind these behaviors. What was explained was that in fact, students frequently multi-task during class, performing such actions as checking e-mail, texting, and chatting online. Students were interviewed, and confidently admitted to performing three, four, or more electronic tasks at a time while in class, asserting that their learning was not hindered in any way by their divided attention.
An interview with the professors of some of the multi-taskers, however, revealed that students who multi-tasked in class performed lower on tests than one would expect of a bright student who had been paying attention every day in class. There were also some brain imaging tests performed that showed that multi-taskers retained less than non -multi-taskers. The consensus of professors and scientific researchers seemed to be that multi-tasking interferes with learning. (I sort of went, “Duh.”)

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Author: Writewireless

I am a thinker, educator, and writer, who teaches English, French, design, and career skills. My articles and posts about being human, teaching, careers, parenting, travel, and world affairs have been published in various newsletters, websites, and blogs. I currently teach and inspire young people to write and to explore the world.

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