The Effects Of Information Retention English Language Essay

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Students across the globe are paying more attention to their electronic devices than they are to the professors. Although teachers have banned the use of cell phones in some classes, they are still in use in a many of the rooms with or without the knowledge of the teacher. Once a professor told a class I was attending that he didn't care what we were doing as long as we weren't on our cell phones. He explained his reasoning was that he trying to prevent us from training our brains not to pay attention. When my professor made this statement, something clicked in my brain. He was right. I want to know what happens to our brain while we are multitasking. We need to know the real effects that multitasking has on our learning experience. I have read a number of articles that talk about everything from cell phones, to laptops, and driving distracted. First I will cover some of the evidence and background information that pointed me in this direction. I wil also go into why it is important to research our attention spans and the future of our knowledge, being that we are training our brains not to focus. I hope to find from my study that there really is less knowledge retention when we are multitasking.

Background literature

What are the real effects of using a cell phone during a lecture? How can reading a text message take away from a learning experience? In a similar study by Kraushaar and Novak on the use of laptop computers during lectures they found at the, "05 significance level, (instant messaging) IM is the only multitasking subcategory with SMT rates that are negatively correlated with quiz average, project, and final exam grades" (Kraushaar & Novak 2010). With this research it would be safe to say that texting being similar to IM, would also cause students to be able to retain less information. Also, a number of students use their laptops nowadays more for messaging on Facebook than looking at class related material while switching back and forth between a friends message and the lecture at hand. The way that this research was analyzed was a great way because there was not much error when the computer spyware was monitoring the participant's laptop. They found that when the students initially stated how often they were distracted with the programs open on their laptop, they underestimated. With the use of the spyware, you eliminate the error of self- reporting. However, their hypothesis that the students would do significantly worse was not supported but could be because these students studied outside of class.

We live in a world known as the "Digital Age". That is meaning that a most things that we do revolves around electronics. With us being always readily available, we tend to never stop multitasking and in turn, never fully focus. Helding wrote an article called "The Multitasking Monster" in which she explained that the misconception that we can do many things at one time has everyone trying to complete multiple tasks and in turn actually takes a longer time to complete any task. Not only are these multi-taskers accomplishing less, but they have also increased their stress level. There are two reasons that she states the stress hormone is activated, "the struggle to keep the tasks separated and categorized in his mind, while simultaneously allowing the multitasking rototiller to churn them up together" and also by "task switch loss"(Helding 2012). It takes us a few minutes to actually focus on what we were doing once we have allowed something to distract us. Allowing something else into our minds while attempting to complete a task is actually working backwards. The more things we try to do at once, the more time we will spend, refocusing on the different tasks. One of the most important effects on activating the stress hormone is that we are impairing our memory.

Can we really control what is happening to us? Our environment is full of media and entertainment, and you can't drive down the street without seeing numerous ads begging for your attention. Even think about how many ads you are bombarded with when you log in to your email. While you are talking to a friend, has your phone ever went off and you completely tuned out of your friends conversation in front of you and you had to ask them what exactly you were talking about? Think about how common this is. We do so many things at one time that we can't even remember what is going on half the time. The split-focus that we use is a result of living in a high media world. We are attempting to adapt. The problem with this type of living as is stated in Jackson's, "Distracted: The New NewsWorld and the Fate of Attention", if this continues we will be "collectively nurturing new forms of ignorance" (Jackson). In her article she demonstrates how we tend to just take little bits of information from numerous sources but we don't actually dig in and retain any real information, hence the harboring of new ignorance. We will not be ignorant for the reasons that were common in the past, such as a lack of education, but we will be over-stimulated with the abundance of information that continues to bombard us. Ultimately all of the distractions are limiting our ability to complete cognitive thinking tasks. It is detrimental that we are aware of this our multitasking or "universal disease" as it is called in Craig Mindrum's "The Twitching Organization".

Not only do we have to worry the problems that multitasking can cause while we are in a classroom and attempting to learn, but we also need to be aware of how it is affecting our driving. There are very few drivers anymore, who are not always engaged in a secondary task while driving. Drews et al conducted a research on distracted driving in an article called "Passenger and Cell Phone Conversations in Simulated Driving". The purpose of this study was to see the difference between how using a hands free device and an actual passenger could affect the driving. It was found that a cell phone decreased one's ability to stay in the lane and to remember when to exit the interstate. Having a passenger in the car tended to impact the driving positively unless they were over correcting or there were children in the car, which are more distracting. A similar study was conducted with cell phone use by Froese et all on "Effects of Classroom Cell Phone Use and Actual learning". A survey along with an experiment was used in this study to test the hypothesis. They tested the students once while texting and once while not, while receiving a power point presentation with the opportunity to take notes if possible. The student's scores while texting were significantly lower than while not texting. This study is very similar to what I would like to do in order to discover the effects of distracted learning.

What I hope to learn from this research is what happens to us when we continue to multitask and split focus mainly with the use of cellular phones. I hope to find from my research that there really is less knowledge retention when we are multitasking. I hypothesize that when participants are engaged in a secondary, distraction task, they will retain less information and therefore show lower scores on recall of information from the video. 



Fifteen undergraduate college students at Clemson University with a mixture of males and females.


This research project will be testing the amount of knowledge retention a student has while solely paying attention to a video and then while completing a distracting task and watching a video. The students will have paper and pencil which they may take notes with if they are interested. They will be tested on their knowledge retention with a short 5 question multiple choice quiz at the end of each video. The dependent variable will be the amount of retained knowledge. The independent variable will be if they are doing a distracting task or not.



Paper (type up quiz and instructions)

Computer with videos/projector

Personally owned Cell Phone


The participants in this study will be watching a two separate videos and being quizzed at the end of each. I will be manipulating this study by having them perform a distraction task of using their personal cell phones while the second video is playing. I will be using two groups to compare whether the distraction had an effect on the information retention and comparing the results of the quiz's using t-test with the significance coming from the group of students using the distracting device having a lower mean score on the quiz.


In a classroom environment a group of 15 Clemson students will asked to pay attention to the video being played on a computer/projector. The students will be sitting at desks in chairs scattered throughout the room with paper and pen available to take notes. A five minute video, "The Wildlife Crime Story-From Africa to Asia" will be played. After the video the students will be given a quiz and a pen. The students will have 10 minutes to take the five question multiple choice quiz. The students will then be asked to pull out their cell phones and either search for new Apps to download or to text with a friend. While the students are playing this another video, "Stuff they don't want you to know-The 1001 Club" will be played which they will be asked to watch while finding Apps. Note-taking material will again be available. Once this video is over the students will again be given a quiz similar to the first one with five multiple choice questions. Upon completion of the second quiz, the students will be released.


I will take the scores from the multiple choice quiz on the first quiz and calculate the mean score. I will then do the same for the second quiz that was taken while distracted. I will then put the results in Minitab and test for significance using the t-test. Upon completion of this I will be able to identify of my study concluded with any significant results.


The Wildlife Crime Story

Where is the majority of the ivory we test from?


East Asia


Central Africa

What is another item being smuggled besides ivory?





What organization does wildlife smuggling fund?

World Wildlife Fund



Animal Shelters

What was done to ensure that Gabon would no longer be a source of illegal ivory?

Arrest everyone

Burn the ivory


Stop all exports

Is wildlife crime an increasing threat to national security?




It was not covered

Stuff they don't want you to know-The 1001 Club

What is the purpose of the World Wildlife Fund(WWF)?

For people to be able to get exotic animals

To fund Pita

For people to live in harmony with nature

To save the world

Each member of the 1001 Club contributed how much upon entry?





What was an outlandish goal of the 1001 Club that was speculated by onlookers?

Reduce the human population

To save animals

To live in harmony with nature

To fund the black market

The WWF works against _________ to help preserve endangered and threatened species.





The club is suspicious to theorist because:

They want to save animals.

They don't like saving animals

They have too much money

They are too secretive