Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Eileen Wood

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


An experiment was conducted with the primary purpose of determining whether multitasking while listening to lectures impacts on learning performance. Four digitally-based multi-tasking activities (texting using a cell-phone, emailing, MSN messaging and Facebook) were compared to 3 control groups (a paper-and-pencil note-taking, a word-processing note-taking and a natural technology/note condition) over three sessions. The natural use control group was included to assess what level of multi-tasking, if any, occurs naturally in an authentic classroom lecture. The 7 (condition) X 3 (session) mixed design, revealed that participants m the Facebook and MSN conditions performed more poorly than participants in the paper-and-pencil use control. Fidelity measures indicated non-compliance with instructions within all conditions. Subsequent analyses, taking compliance into account, revealed that participants who did not use any technologies m any of the three lecture sessions, outperformed students who used some form of technology, even for as few as one session. Consistent with the Cognitive Bottleneck theory of attention (Welford, 1967), simultaneously performing 2 or more tasks results in decrements in performance in at least one of the tasks Overall, contrary to popular beliefs, findings indicate that using technology can have a detrimental impact on learning. The implications of the study are discussed with regards to educational initiatives that promote the use of digital technologies to increase learning opportunities.

Convocation Year