Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Multitasking Lowers Academic Performance

It says something about how firmly entrenched the net generation myth has become that we need to conduct a study to show that being distracted and unfocused has a negative impact on academic performance.

One of the claims made by the net generation myth creators is that young people can multitask efficiently. They can do this, apparently, because they have grown up with digital technology and have become used to multitasking. This claim isn't based on any research but rather is a dubious conclusion based on observing that young people seem to be always doing so many things at the same time: texting, surfing the Internet,  chatting on mobile phones, and, somewhere in between, studying. They must, the simple-minded argument goes, be doing all of those things well. Well, no.

A study from the Open University of the Netherlands, reported in the Daily Mail, shows that students who were using Facebook while studying had exam results that were 20% lower than those who were not using Facebook but instead were focusing their attention on the studying.

Dr. Paul Kirschner who conducted the study says: "Our study, and other previous work, suggests that while people may think constant task-switching allows them to get more done in less time, the reality is it extends the amount of time needed to carry out tasks and leads to more mistakes...We should resist the fashionable views of educational gurus that children can multi-task, and that we should adapt our education systems accordingly to keep up with the times."

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