A recent Pew Internet & American Life Project report surveyed 2,462 middle and high school Advanced Placement and national writing project teachers and concluded that: “Overwhelming majorities agree with the assertions that today’s digital technologies are creating an easily distracted generation with short attention spans, and today’s students are too ‘plugged in’ and need more time away from their digital technologies.”
Two-thirds of the respondents agree with the notion that today’s digital technologies do more to distract students than to help them academically. Mind you, we are talking about teachers who typically teach the best and brightest students and not those who we would generally think of as highly distractible.
We also looked at whether these distractors might predict who was a better student in general. Not surprisingly, those who stayed on task longer and had well-developed study strategies were better students. The worst students were those who consumed more media each day and had a preference for switching back and forth between several tasks at the same time.
One additional result stunned us: If the students checked Facebook just once during the 15-minute study period, they had a lower grade-point average. It didn’t matter how many times they looked at Facebook; once was enough. Not only did social media negatively impact their temporary focus and attention, but it ultimately impacted their entire school performance.
This is both unsurprising and a disaster in slow motion. We really, really have to get a grip on technology in our lives, and learn to recognize when too much is not enough.