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Examining the impact of off-task multi-tasking with technology on real-time classroom learning

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Computers & Education Volume 58, Number 1, ISSN 0360-1315 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


The purpose of the present study was to examine the impact of multi-tasking with digital technologies while attempting to learn from real-time classroom lectures in a university setting. Four digitally-based multi-tasking activities (texting using a cell-phone, emailing, MSN messaging and Facebook™) were compared to 3 control groups (paper-and-pencil note-taking, word-processing note-taking and a natural use of technology condition) over three consecutive lectures. Comparisons indicated that participants in the Facebook™ and MSN conditions performed more poorly than those in the paper-and-pencil use control. Follow-up analyses were required to accommodate the substantial number of students who failed to comply with the limited use of technology specified by their assigned conditions. These analyses indicated that participants who did not use any technologies in the lectures outperformed students who used some form of technology. Consistent with the cognitive bottleneck theory of attention ( Welford, 1967) and contrary to popular beliefs, attempting to attend to lectures and engage digital technologies for off-task activities can have a detrimental impact on learning.


Wood, E., Zivcakova, L., Gentile, P., Archer, K., De Pasquale, D. & Nosko, A. (2012). Examining the impact of off-task multi-tasking with technology on real-time classroom learning. Computers & Education, 58(1), 365-374. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved May 8, 2021 from .

This record was imported from Computers & Education on January 29, 2019. Computers & Education is a publication of Elsevier.

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