Multitasking: Preliminary Research

Poyntz (1933) empirically confirmed toys and the Victrola as “potent distractors” Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/163677767679895624/

Poyntz (1933) empirically confirmed toys and the Victrola as “potent distractors”
Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/163677767679895624/

Distractions have long been understood to impede achievement, and memory formation (Bailey, 1889; Denio, 1897). Long before smart phones, Poyntz (1933) empirically confirmed toys and the Victrola as “potent distractors” affecting timed responses but noted positive effects on “the fertility of the children’s ideas”.

The term “multitasking” emerged in the late 1980s describing a technological innovation allowing computers to accomplish many functions simultaneously. By the turn of the century, the term was increasingly used to describe human attention to more than one task at a time, often touted as a desirable or essential skill (Chiavenato, 2001; Frand, 2000; Gray, 2000; “Multi-tasking with your baby,” 2001).

Today, however, there is ample evidence that multitasking more than one cognitively engaging activity negatively affects performance in all concurrent pursuits (Bowers et al., 2000; Firat, 2013a, 2013b; Grinols & Rajesh, 2014; Judd, 2014; Junco & Cotten, 2012; Lin, Lee, & Robertson, 2011).

Research suggests that a primary motivator for multitasking is social engagement, or “being” with others (Firat, 2013a, 2013b; Hjorth & Lim, 2012). The epistemology of social constructivism sees knowledge creation as a social activity (Fagan, 2010) with modern communication technology enabling creation of learning communities (Couros, 2009; del Moral, Cernea, & Villalustre, 2013; Kop & Hill, 2014) and means of engagement that are transforming our understanding of humans and human intelligence (Beloff, 2010; Benditt, 1999; Pea, 1993).

It seems unlikely that multitasking behaviours and distractibility will ever be eliminated so it is necessary to find ways of mitigating the negative effects, and possibly find positive applications for rapid task switching and continuous partial attention. Social constructivism and inquiry may offer a milieu in which multitasking behaviours are an asset rather than a liability. I am very interested in determining if multitasking behaviour can be harnessed or directed to serve learning goals within a social constructivist setting.

 

Sources Cited

Bailey, W. W. (1889). Distractions. Journal of Education, 29(1), 7.

Beloff, L. (2010). Wearable artefacts as research vehicles. Technoetic Arts: A Journal of Speculative Research, 8(1), 47–53. doi:10.1386/tear.8.1.47/1

Benditt, J. (1999). Humachines. Technology Review, 102(3), 8.

Bowers, C., Price, C., Cannon-Bowers, J., LaBarba, R., Borjesson, W., & Vogel, J. (2000). Decision making in dual-task environments: Analysis of hemispheric competition effects. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 91, 237–245.

Chiavenato, I. (2001). Advances and challenges in human resource management in the new millennium. Public Personnel Management, 30(1), 17–26.

Couros, A. (2009). Open, connected, social - implications for educational design. Campus-Wide Information Systems, 26(3), 232–239. doi:10.1108/10650740910967393

Del Moral, M. E., Cernea, A., & Villalustre, L. (2013). Connectivist learning objects and learning styles. Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning & Learning Objects, 9, 105–124. Retrieved from http://proxygw.wrlc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=89372672&site=ehost-live

Denio, F. B. (1897). Memory and its cultivation. Education, 18(4), 217–228.

Fagan, M. B. (2010). Social Construction Revisited: Epistemology and Scientific Practice. Philosophy of Science, 77(1), 92–116. Retrieved from http://proxygw.wrlc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=48444269&site=ehost-live

Firat, M. (2013a). Continuous partial attention as a problematic technolgy use: A case for educators. Journal of Educators Online, 10(2), 1–20.

Firat, M. (2013b). Multitasking or continuous partial attention: A critical bottleneck for digital natives. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 14(1), 266–272.

Frand, J. L. (2000). The information age mindset: Changes in students and implications for higher education. EDUCAUSE Review, 35(October 2000), 15–24. doi:ht tp: //www.educause.edu/apps /er /erm00/ar t icles005/ erm0051.pdf

Gray, C. L. (2000). What Does It Take to Become a CFO? Journal of Accountancy, 190(6), 47–53. doi:10.1002/pfi

Grinols, A. B., & Rajesh, R. (2014). Multitasking with smartphones in the college classroom. Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, 77(1), 89–95. doi:10.1177/2329490613515300

Hjorth, L., & Lim, S. S. (2012). Mobile intimacy in an age of affective mobile media. Feminist Media Studies, 12(4), 477–484. Retrieved from http://proxygw.wrlc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=84923916&site=ehost-live

Judd, T. (2014). Making sense of multitasking: The role of Facebook. Computers and Education, 70, 194–202. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2013.08.013

Junco, R., & Cotten, S. R. (2012). No A 4 U: The relationship between multitasking and academic performance. Computers and Education, 59, 505–514. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.12.023

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2014). October – 2008 Connectivism : Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past ?, 3(3), 1–8.

Lin, L., Lee, J., & Robertson, T. (2011). Reading while watching video: The effect of video content on reading comprehension and media multitasking ability. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 45(2), 183–201. doi:10.2190/EC.45.2.d

Multi-tasking with your baby. (2001, May). Working Mother, 74.

Pea, R. D. (1993). Practices of distributed intelligence and designs for education. In G. Salomon (Ed.), Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations (pp. 47–87). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/190159/Practices_of_distributed_intelligence_and_designs_for_education

Poyntz, L. (1933). The Efficacy of Visual and Auditory Distractions for Preschool Children. Child Development, 4(5), 55. doi:10.2307/1125838

 

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