Multitasking impairs learning from multimedia across gifted and non-gifted students

Abstract

Multitasking refers to the simultaneous execution of two or more tasks. Perceived multitasking superiority of the digital natives and gifted students in the popular education literature need to be investigated with robust studies. In this regard, the effect of different multitasking scenarios on multimedia learning was investigated with 93 gifted and 121 non-gifted middle school students. The respondents were assigned randomly to three different scenarios: Monotasking (i.e. watching an instructional video without interruption), concurrent multitasking (i.e. texting during an instructional video) and sequential multitasking (i.e. watching instructional and distractive videos successively). In addition to content learning, the students’ scores on topic interest, daily multitasking habits, subjective cognitive load and working memory capacity were considered. Working memory capacity correlated positively with learning outcomes. After it was included as a covariate, the results of a two-way between-groups ANCOVA revealed that multitasking conditions interfered with learning. Gifted students were consistently more successful than non-gifted students, but suffered during concurrent multitasking. Therefore, organizing instructional interventions according to an empirically questionable multitasking superiority seems problematic.

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Acknowledgements

This study is the summary of the first author’s Ph.D. dissertation, which was supervised by the second author. The research team thanks the Editor and six anonymous reviewers for their outstanding feedback on the previous versions of the manuscript.

Funding

This study was funded by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK, Grant Number: 117K133).

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Correspondence to Yavuz Akbulut.

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Mercimek, B., Akbulut, Y., Dönmez, O. et al. Multitasking impairs learning from multimedia across gifted and non-gifted students. Education Tech Research Dev 68, 995–1016 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-019-09717-9

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Keywords

  • Multitasking
  • Working memory
  • Ability
  • Secondary school
  • Multimedia learning