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Multitasking or Distracted?

April 7, 2009

It should not come as a surprise to you that I am very comfortable in front of a laptop.  I spend much of my day communicating on a computer or cell phone (iPhone) to both staff and community members.  I write and answer emails, post information on our website, link messages to Twitter, prepare presentations, send text messages, schedule meetings, create & edit documents, and more.  This type of activity defines working in the early 21st century.

Our students do the same thing, only more so… reading a book while listening to music, watching TV, sending text messages, eating a sandwich all while doing homework.  For instance, a recent study indicated that 46 percent of teenagers had sent text messages while driving.

The question is… Is this really multitasking?  Or is it being distracted and unfocused?

Both.  In my mind, it is simply the new reality.  As educators we must be ready to engage our students in a manner that prepares them for future.  They are digital natives. Multitasking is not going to disappear.  Current neurological research indicates that the loss of attention and the time spent switching from task to task may have an adverse effect on learning complex concepts. Given this research, we must develop strategies to help our students manage the overwhelming stream of information they are faced with each day. Exercise, breaks before moving on, and alternating tasks are all proven ways to combat “techno-brain burnout.” Students need to be prepared to be in control of their learning in the digital age.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Staci Nazareth permalink
    April 8, 2009 3:37 pm

    That’s so cool that you are tweeting! I didn’t know, and now I can follow. I agree. The days of creating a quiet homework corner are long gone. I think my own daughter (and myself included!) seem to be able to focus on computer work better with our headphones on! In fact, I’m doing it right now.
    Cool post.

  2. cpsm permalink
    April 13, 2009 12:10 pm

    I am not convinced that multi-tasking is the answer as it can lead to increased distractions, mistakes and incomplete work. It works best if those tasks are active psychomotor tasks or hands on tasks ( ie cooking, laundry, doing chores, etc) When it comes to studies and mental processing of abstract subjects, algebra, physics, history, the active part is all mental and processing is very different. Think of how many times when you are talking on phone while on the computer and there is a lag either in the conversation or a typo or mental block in writing- neither is complete nor correct. It also assumes that all people can learn orally best, which one has to hear something more than 3 times ( if not more) to remember or learn it. How many times have you told your kids not to do or to do something? I don’t know how many kids or adults have time to listen to lectures or lessons 3 times. Now if you can convince kids to listen to lectures like they listen to their ipod/mp3 music that may be worth trying with some subjects, but I am not convinced, that could be done 🙂

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