For a quarter of an hour, the investigators from the lab of Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University–Dominguez Hills, marked down once a minute what the students were doing as they studied. A checklist on the form included: reading a book, writing on paper, typing on the computer—and also using email, looking at Facebook, engaging in instant messaging, texting, talking on the phone, watching television, listening to music, surfing the Web. Sitting unobtrusively at the back of the room, the observers counted the number of windows open on the students’ screens and noted whether the students were wearing earbuds.Allow me to share my personal experience here.
Although the students had been told at the outset that they should “study something important, including homework, an upcoming examination or project, or reading a book for a course,” it wasn’t long before their attention drifted: Students’ “on-task behavior” started declining around the two-minute mark as they began responding to arriving texts or checking their Facebook feeds. By the time the 15 minutes were up, they had spent only about 65 percent of the observation period actually doing their schoolwork.
I've always been a fairly academically-oriented guy. I've always gotten good grades, and even now, pursuing my master's degree via distance learning, I'm still striving. I'm about as motivated a student as you're going to get. My classes are delivered via video over the internet--imagine watching a video of a math lecture!--and even I, Mr. Motivated, will switch over to Instapundit or Facebook or email for a moment once in awhile. If I, with all I have going for me, can be distracted during from class, what hope does your average high school or college student have?