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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.

Researchers have recently demonstrated that mind-wandering episodes can vary on numerous dimensions, and it has been suggested that assessing these dimensions will play an important role in our understanding of mind wandering. One dimension that has received considerable attention in recent work is the intentionality of mind wandering. Although it has been claimed that indexing the intentionality of mind wandering will be necessary if researchers are to obtain a coherent understanding of the wandering mind, one concern is that this dimension might be redundant with another, longstanding, dimension: namely, meta-awareness. Thus, the utility of the argument for assessing intentionality rests upon a demonstration that this dimension is distinct from the meta-awareness dimension. To shed light on this issue, across two studies we compared and contrasted these dimensions to determine whether they are redundant or distinct. In both studies, we found support for the view that these dimensions are distinct.