Home' Teacher : April 2011 Contents 74 TEACHER APRIL 2011
in recall were caused by sleep disruption or
because the stimulation from the computer
game playing overrode the brain's record-
ing of the vocabulary, although Dworak
likes the second theory. 'When you look at
vocabulary and look at huge stimulus after
that, your brain has to decide which infor-
mation to store,' he explained to Richtel.
'Your brain might favour the emotionally
stimulating information over the vocabu-
lary.' But, as most researchers like to con-
clude, further research is necessary.
Eyal Ophir, Clifford Nass and Anthony
Wagner from Stanford University decided to
do some of that further research. They took
a sample of 50 heavy media multi-tasking
students and 50 non-multi-taskers, and had
them take three tests that showed, essen-
tially, that heavy media multi-taskers are
more susceptible to distraction and perform
worse than light multi-taskers on every test.
'The high multi-taskers are always
drawing from all the information in front
of them,' explains Ophir. 'They can't keep
things separate in their minds.'
Adds Wagner, 'When they're in situ-
ations where there are multiple sources
of information coming from the external
world or emerging out of memory, they're
not able to filter out what's not relevant
to their current goal. That failu re to filter
means they're slowed down by that irrel-
evant information.' T
This month's Last Word was writte n by
Steve Holden, Editor of Te acher . His lat-
est book is Somebody to Love published
by Unive rsity of Queensland Press.
Dworak, M. , Schierl, T., Br uns, T. &
Strüder, H.K. (2007). Impact of singular
excessive computer game and television
exposure on sleep patterns and me mory
performance of school- aged children.
Pediatric s. 120(5): 978-985.
Ophir, E., Nass, C. & Wagner, A. (2009).
Cognitive control in media multi-taskers.
Proceedings of the Nation al Ac ademy of
Scienc es . 106(37): 15,583-15,587.
There's an argument in educational and
neu roscientific research circles to do with
'excessive media consumption' by school
students, and it goes like this: headphone-
wearing, web-browsing students who text
while they watch television and do their
homework are habituating themselves to
multi-tasking, and that's a good thing;
alternatively, all that overstimulation leads
to distraction, reducing our students' atten-
tion spans, and that's a bad thing.
The good news is that research is discov-
ering heaps about excessive media consump-
tion. The bad news is that the research into
the relationship between excessive media
consumption and distraction is ambiguous.
Worse, even where the research does reveal
a correlation, it doesn't reveal causation,
and so, as most researchers like to conclude,
further research is necessary.
Attempting to nail causation, German
researchers Markus Dworak, Thomas
Schierl, Thomas Bruns and Heiko Klaus
Strüder, from the German Sport University
of Cologne investigated excessive television
watching and computer gaming to find out
how they affected the sleep patterns and
memory performance of students.
They got students to watch excessive tele-
vision or play computer games excessively
then took polysomnographic measurements
during the night -- stuff to do with brain
activity, eye movements, muscle activity,
heart rhythm, respiration and pulse -- to
get a picture of the students' sleep patterns.
They then cross-referenced this with visual
and verbal memory tests, essentially vocab-
ulary recall tests, conducted both before the
television or computer game stimulation
and after sleep.
Their findings? 'Only computer game
playing resulted in significant reduced
amounts of slow-wave sleep as well as sig-
nificant declines in verbal memory perfor-
mance.' Television was okay.
The problem, as Dworak, now at Harvard
University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in
the United States, told the New York Times's
Matt Richtel, is that the study still couldn't
determine whether the significant declines
The last word
AS STEVE HOLDEN
ARE TRYING TO FIGURE
TEXTERS ARE DOING
CLEVER, OR JUST
NOT FINISHING THEIR
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