Teenagers consume 7.5 hours of media each day. They live, learn and communicate using new technology. But what happens when their online world collides with the traditional classroom?
The research on multitasking is clear: It's not an effective means of accomplishing tasks. When performing multiple tasks at the same time, such as watching TV and doing homework, the mind tricks us into thinking we are succeeding at both tasks, when, in reality, we are doing poorly on both. Functional MRI studies from Vanderbilt University found that when the brain is forced to respond to multiple stimuli at the same time, task-switching occurs. Task-switching is the shifting of full attention from one activity to another. This leads to lost time as the brain tries to determine which task to carry out first. A 2009 review of 50 studies on digital use and learning found that multitasking prevents people from gaining a deep understanding of the information they are trying to learn. One particular study found that when students were encouraged to use the internet during lectures, they did not process the lecture as well as students who did not have internet access and, as a result, did poorer on tests.