Thursday, February 13, 2014

A few thoughts about multi-tasking

In Now You See It, Davidson says that human brains that develop connected to the Internet are different; those kids born in the Internet Age, the so-called "digital natives," think differently than we do in my generation (the TV generation? ugh), they process things differently, and one of the assumptions here, I think, is that they are better than we are at multi-tasking. They are able to text, talk, watch TV or listen to a lecture all while updating their Twitter feed and Facebook page.

But recently I have read the results of several studies that claim the opposite: these young people are no better at multi-tasking than anyone else, because human brains did not evolve to do more than one thing at a time. When they multi-task, the result is that nothing gets done well.

Then I thought, maybe those studies are just part of a backlash against novel ideas about thinking, brain research, education.... Maybe there is a deep-dyed plot to discourage us from teaching differently! Paranoia! I can't believe anything I read. Whom can I trust?

I brought this up at a f2f meeting of the graduate section of Katie's "Experiments in Feminist Learning" seminar on Wednesday. Katie responded that she had read research supporting both sides of the argument: some studies support the multi-tasking abilities of young people, while others debunk them.

The answer, of course, is to keep an open mind, read up on both points of view, and try to come to an informed conclusion.

It's a lot of work, but it's the only way.

P.S. That graduate seminar meeting was a lovely break from a hectic day. For two hours, I sat in Katie's cozy office in Woods Hall, listening to and sometimes adding to a thoughtful discussion about measurement in education (aka grading) as well as other topics that happened to come up. It was supremely peaceful and made me realize how I never do that--quietly sit and discuss something.


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