It’s time we started exploring some of the tough questions on texting. The May issue of The Teaching Professor newsletter contains highlights from a survey of almost 300 marketing majors about their texting in class. The results confirm what I’m guessing many of us already suspect. A whopping 98% of the students reported that they had texted some time during the term in which the data was collected. They did so for an unimpressive set of reasons, the most popular being “I just wanted to communicate.” Fifty-six percent of the cohort said they were currently taking a class in which the teacher banned texting. Forty-nine percent said they texted anyway.
With easy access to all sorts of technology, students multitask. So do lots of us, for that matter. But students are way too convinced that multitasking is a great way to work. They think they can do two or three tasks simultaneously and not compromise the quality of what they produce. Research says that about 5% of us multitask effectively. Proof of the negative effects of multitasking in learning environments is now coming from a variety of studies.
Our students seem to be masters at multitasking—they regularly do more than one thing at once, or break from one task to work on another and then move on to a third. Even those of us not so adept at managing more than one task at once can “walk and chew gum,” which makes us all multitaskers to some degree. But our students combine so many disparate tasks: biology book open on their knees, they text a friend while listening to rap in the background. Many of them tell us they can’t study when everything is quiet.