Friend or Foe?

Multitasking and the Millennial Learner
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 716)


Rapid changes in technology over the past two decades have provided many benefits. For many of us, the transformation to the digital age has been gradual; and, most often, welcomed. We have discovered innovative ways to make use of technology in our classes with the aim of enhancing the learning experience for our students. But what about today’s students, often referred to as millennials, who have never known anything but instant access to information? Computers, smart phones, iPads, and other technologies offer their users immediate access to information. These technologies can also be seen as a significant distraction to whatever the task at hand. Could these distractions be to blame for the perception of many millennials that they must multitask in order to get everything done? Could the effects of instant access to information through the use of various forms of technology be casting a cloud on student learning? If so, does this cloud have a silver lining? The aim of this paper is to address these types of questions using survey data obtained from students enrolled in a second-level physics course.


Digital age Millennials Multitasking Student learning in physics Technology and student learning 


  1. 1.
    Twenge, J.M.: Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable Than Ever Before. Atria, A Division of Simon & Schuster, New York (2014)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Twenge, J.M., Campbell, W.K.: The Narcissism Epidemic. Atria, A Division of Simon & Schuster, New York (2009)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Twenge, J.M., Foster, J.D.: Mapping the scale of the Narcissism epidemic: increases in Narcissism 2002–2007 within ethnic groups. J. Res. Pers. 42, 1610–1622 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Kandaras, N.: It’s Digital Heroin: How Screens Turn Kids into Psychotic Junkies. New York Post (2016)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Digital Addiction: An ABC News 20/20 Special Report, 19 May 2017.
  6. 6.
    Twenge, J.M.: The age of anxiety? Birth cohort change in anxiety and neuroticism, 1952–1993. J. Pers. Soc. Pyschol. 79, 1007–1021 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Baron, N.S.: Always On. Oxford University Press, New York (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Becker, M.W., Alzahabi, B.S., Hopwood, C.J.: Media multitasking is associated with symptoms of depression and social anxiety. Cyberpsychol. Behav. Soc. 66(2), 132–135 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Laws, P.W.: Calculus-based physics without lectures. Phys. Today 44(12), 24–31 (1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Beichner, R.J., Saul, J.M., Allain, R.J., Deardorff, D.L., Abbott, D.S.: Introduction to SCALE-UP: student-centered activities for large enrollment university physics. In: Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education, Seattle, Washington, Session 2380 (2000)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Hake, R.R.: Active-engagement vs. traditional methods: a six thousand student study of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses. Am. J. Phys. 66, 64–74 (1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Cummings, K., Marx, J., Thornton, R., Kuhl, D.: Evaluating innovation in studio physics. PER Suppl. Am. J. Phys. 67, S38–S44 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Thornton, R., Sokoloff, D.: Learning motion concepts using real time microcomputer-based laboratory tools. Am. J. Phys. 58, 858–867 (1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Redish, E.F., Steinberg, R.N.: Teaching physics: figuring out what works. Phys. Today 52, 24–30 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Van Heuvelen, A.: Overview, case study physics. Am. J. Phys. 59, 898–906 (1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Mazur, E.: Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River (1997)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Redish, E.F.: Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite. John Wiley & Sons Inc., Hoboken (2003)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsAmerican UniversityWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Reformed Theological SeminaryMcLeanUSA

Personalised recommendations