A Decade of Distraction? How Multitasking Affects Student Outcomes
School of Education, Iowa State University; Harvard University - Berkman Center for Internet & Society
Shelia R. Cotten
University of Alabama at Birmingham - Department of Sociology and Social Work
September 13, 2011
The proliferation and ease of access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as Facebook, text messaging, and instant messaging has resulted in ICT users being presented with more real-time streaming data than ever before. Unfortunately, this has also resulted in individuals increasingly engaging in multitasking as an information management strategy. The purpose of this study was to examine how college students multitask with ICTs and to determine the impacts of this multitasking on their college GPA. Using web survey data from a large sample of college students at one university (N=1,839), we found that students reported spending a large amount of time using ICTs on a daily basis. Students reported frequently searching for content not related to courses, using Facebook, emailing, talking on their cell phones, and texting while doing schoolwork. Hierarchical (blocked) linear regression analyses revealed that using Facebook and texting while doing schoolwork were negatively associated with overall college GPA. Conversely, emailing was positively associated with college GPA. Engaging in Facebook use or texting while trying to complete schoolwork may tax students’ capacity for cognitive processing and preclude deeper learning, while emailing may be directly related to learning. Our research indicates that the type and purpose of ICT use matters in terms of the educational impacts of multitasking.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 38
Keywords: oii, multitasking, ICT, Facebook, cell phones, text messaging, academic outcomes, grades, college studentsworking papers series
Date posted: September 19, 2011
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