As a public service announcement I want to share this research with you (and no, it's not mine but I wish it was) on a topic that is close to our hearts: Can they really multi-task with their phones and laptops on in class?
Evan F. Risko, Dawn Buchanan, Srdan Medimorec, Alan Kingstone. Everyday attention: Mind wandering and computer use during lectures, Computers & Education, Volume 68, October 2013, pp. 275-283. Abstract: The influx of technology into the classroom presents a serious challenge for educators and researchers. One of the greatest challenges is to better understand, given our knowledge of the demands of dual tasking, how the distraction posed by this technology influences educational outcomes. In the present investigation we explore the impact of engaging in computer mediated non-lecture related activities (e.g., email, surfing the web) during a lecture on attention to, and retention of, lecture material. We test a number of predictions derived from existing research on dual tasking. Results demonstrate a significant cost of engaging in computer mediated non-lecture related activities to both attention and retention of lecture material, a reduction in the frequency of mind wandering during the lecture, and evidence for difficulty coordinating attention in lectures with distractions present. Discussion focuses on the theoretical and practical implications of these results for dividing attention in the classroom.Let me put the results in a nutshell: No they can't. They can't multitask. They learn less when they fuss with their phones and Facebook. So tell them, SCIENCE has determined that they need every toy to be off during class.
Mod note: Reading the full article costs $24.95 and the blog has not obtained a free copy for anyone to read. We cannot forward it to you, is what I'm saying.