In the article, "Can Students Really Multitask? An Experimental Study of Instant Messaging while Reading" Bowman, Levine, Waite, and Gendron strive to investigate and highlight the effect of multitasking on the performance of various tasks. As such, the scholars identified the most prevalent trend among students, i.e., instant messaging while handling their school work (Bowman, 2010). The authors aimed to illustrate the impact of instant messaging on student performance since it is a predominant trend in the contemporary society. Despite the response control associated with instant messaging, attention in main activities such as school work is affected resulting in poor performance. Therefore, multitasking adversely affects student performance more than it gives the control over their communication. In that regard, this paper will strive to demonstrate how lack of focused attention on target school activities is detrimental to a performance by analyzing the method utilized in the article in consideration.
During this research, participants were selected from the age of 17 to 46 years with the majority still attending full-time classes (Bowman, 2010). The group was then tasked with reading the text and providing answers to some questions related to the text. The participants were divided into two major groups; one being interrupted by instant messages from the software installed for the research, while another performed the task uninterrupted. As portrayed in this study, members who were interrupted by direct messaging took more time to read the text as compared to the ones who were uninterrupted (Bowman, 2010). Therefore, the instant messages disrupted the participants causing delays; while the uninterrupted individuals focused on comprehending the text. A test conducted on the participants indicated that individuals who had to respond to the instant messages performed poorly when compared to members who had a maximum concentration on the text.
A majority of the participants utilized in the study were students who studied on a full-time basis. It is an appropriate mechanism meant to ensure that every participant was conversant with the techniques of reading, understanding, and taking tests (Bowman, 2010). Therefore, the participants had an equal ground regarding the comprehension of crucial concepts involving the understanding and analyzing of text. Also, the participants were selected from a common university, which was essential to ensure that environmental factors were not impacting their performance (Bowman, 2010). The participants were well-acclimatized to the reading environment; hence, their performance was not influenced by the setting in which the research was conducted.
The selection criteria were also well distributed as the participants came from different age groups, cultural background, and social status. It entailed both on and off-campus students. The on-campus learners resided within the institution while off-campus students lived at home with their parents or guardians (Bowman, 2010). Evidently, the selection criteria are crucial when researching since it allows for evaluation of the findings from different perspectives including the cultural background. All the students regardless of their background face the same challenges when exposed to interruptions during studying sessions, and this particular research typifies the same since the participants were not drawn from one group.
The researchers strived to promote fairness; thus, provided a similar text for the participants to read and understand. It was a way of avoiding biasness, which would have negatively affected the findings. With a similar text, the performance of the students was exclusively dependent on their concentration when reading the text and not on the nature of the text (Bowman, 2010). Also, those who were interrupted were allowed to experience similar nature of interruption from one software application, which ensured that all the participants who were interrupted had the same experience while the uninterrupted individuals had a similar experience. Therefore, the level of understanding for all students was based on the nature of their focus whether interrupted or uninterrupted.
The researchers also avoided biasness by giving all the participants similar questions as well as text to measure their level of understanding. They all had the chance to perform according to their comprehension in the set environment. As such, the variations in performance were determined by how well every participant understood the text and this was not affected by the nature of the questions that were asked in the research. For those participants who were interrupted with the instant messaging, their performance proved to be poor as compared to the performance of those who were not interrupted and had a maximum chance to focus on understanding the text.
Since the study focused on the impact of instant messaging on learners, the participants were mainly drawn from the students. Understanding this perspective is sufficient to illustrate whether students can multitask. It is worth noting that students are the predominant population exposed to the effects of instant messaging while performing their educational tasks. The study also provided instant messaging software to the students, which gives them a similar experience as their normal reading experience where they are required to master different knowledge from the books but are constantly interrupted by instant messages from their computers. In this research, the participants are given computers with the instant messaging software turned ON and others OFF (Bowman, 2010). The group is then monitored to evaluate their performance as well as compare them, which helps to comprehend the difficulties entailed in multitasking, particularly education and other activities like chatting via the instant messaging platforms.
A major discrepancy can be drawn from the fact that participants came from different faculties, yet they were given a similar text to understand. Perhaps, most of them were bored and disinterested in the study; hence, the variations in performance. Although interruptions may be the primary cause of the performance disparities, the participant's lack of interest could have altered the findings (Bowman, 2010). Furthermore, the selection criterion could be faulty since the researchers did not consider the members' performance or aptitude before the investigations. In other words, the authors did not confirm whether the participants were of similar levels, intellectually. It is; therefore, quite possible that the performance was influenced by the students' ability to understand the text. Moreover, the individuals were not given prior training to assist them to comprehend the requirements for understanding and responding to the text. Evidently, the study errored by considering all the participants had similar intellectual levels.
Training the participants before the study is crucial to offer similar opportunities understanding and responding to the provided text. When the participants are trained and have equal skills in understanding and answering the test, the only factor limiting their performance could have been the interruptions from the instant messaging. Also, it essential to ensure that the text is carried in different groups, which is dependent on aspects such as faculties. Under such circumstances, the participants are given a fair ground to perform. Implementing the stated recommendations could help rule out any other barrier to performance; hence, leaving instant messaging as the only interruption.
Bowman, L. L., Levine, L. E., Waite, B. M., & Gendron, M. (2010). Can students really multitask? An experimental study of instant messaging while reading. Computers & Education, 54(4), 927-931. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2009.09.024
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