Multi-tasking

When watching this video I was reminded of a previous post regarding motivation and technology.  This video seems to “get it” more in that they note the chalkboard is perhaps the most powerful piece of education technology ever created.  One problem with the current powerpoint mentality in post-secondary education is the information density increase – students are bombarded with so much information that the ability to critically consider the information and raise important questions is significantly hindered.

Anyway, this video captures how many college students feel about their courses.  While I agree that much of higher-education is out of touch, I do not agree that making everything more digital is the solution.  One part of the video specifically mentions the need to multi-task.  Unfortunately, the idea of multi-tasking is a myth.  I read an article in the January 2008 Reader’s Digest that pointed this problem out.  The crux of the matter is that our brains are not actually capable of doing two things at once.  What it is capable of is switching back and forth very quickly leading to the illusion of two things at once.  Yet, if we are constantly asking our brains to switch back and forth, we are not getting the most out of either activiy.  So, while students might claim they need to multi-task (ie: check email during class), teachers and students need to be aware that dividing your brain means a decrease in brain power.  Think of your computer.  Yes, it can do multiple things at once, but it slows down significantly when the processor is not allowed to focus on one thing.  If teachers believe their students need to multi-task and encourage students to do so, they are sending the message that what the class is discussing is not cognitively demanding enough to warrant focused brain energy.  What message are you sending to your students?

There is a lot more in this video, I’ll be interested to hear what struck you as interesting.

Addendum:  Here is a link to the professor who made the video’s blog post revisiting this video.  It provides valuable perspective on how this video was intended.  He has some interesting things to say.

http://mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg/?p=188#more-188

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11 Responses to Multi-tasking

  1. Matt says:

    I got the impression that these students were complaining that they had so much “digital face time.” Am I wrong here? Some of the students came off as if they were trying to say “save me from my facebook addiction” or “my cellphone rules my life…help!” Well, they don’t have to bring those things to class. “Only 18% of my professors know my name?” So? Walk up and introduce yourself. It’s called personal responsibility. Can’t learn in the back? Sit in the front. Can’t use the internet responsibly? Don’t bring it to class. I may be way off base here but I think there is just too much information and too many ways to access it for young people to develop in a healthy and functional way. Wonder why we have “attention disorders?”

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  2. jerridkruse says:

    Preach it brother matt! I actually discussed with my classes today how TV changes every 4 seconds or less (scene, camera angle, etc) and how ADD seems to be getting more and more common.

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  3. Jeremy says:

    I found this video about 18 months ago. What really hits home for me is the waste in bigger institutions like that. I’m glad that I went to a liberal arts school where the average class size was under 20.

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    • jerridkruse says:

      Since we went to college together, i clearly understand what you mean. However, one thing I learned during graduate school working with undergraduates at a large university is that the class size of the large schools is only big in the multi-major courses (ie: intro chem where there are more than just chem majors in the course), and once you get into the major further, the class sizes are much smaller. So, there is some missleading going on by the small schools about the actual class size at big schools. There are pros and cons on both sides, i’m very glad I experienced both environments.

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  4. Matt says:

    Don’t even get me started on ADD

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  5. Matt says:

    All of this talk about the use of technology in the classroom has inspired some questions. First of all, I can’t speak with much authority on using technology in education because of afore mentioned conditions (I teach in a low-income district, my students’ lack of experience with technology, etc.). I think it would be great to incorporate technology into my students’ learning experience, but not solely for the sake of using it. But since it’s not available to me I haven’t put much thought into it. I have, however, reflected on just making their learning experience more MEANINGFUL. Class size has been mentioned several times and the fact that it’s a non-issue compared to the effect of the teacher. So that made me think, how effective can a teacher be (or more specifically how can a teacher create meaningful, enriching, and engaging lessons) if he/she is spread too thin. (Again I apologize for my tendency to stray from the topic but as I mentioned I don’t have much to offer in terms of technology specifically) What I mean is after reading over your online collaboration project I wondered how many courses you teach? One? I can understand creating such projects when all of your efforts and focus are directed toward one course. I teach 5 different courses. I sign a waiver every year making me exempt from overload pay. How am I suppose to create 5 different lesson plans everyday that are meaningful and engaging? Don’t get me wrong, I want to. I just don’t see how I can get it done and still stay sane. Anyway, getting to my point. I can see how class size could be a non-factor in determining student learning. But what about teacher workload? I think if I taught one or two courses I would be a much more effective teacher. But teaching so many different courses kind of spreads me thin and, honestly, makes me a teacher that I despise. I feel like my hand is forced and there isn’t much I can do about it.

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    • jerridkruse says:

      I had a whole reply typed out and hit backspace and my computer had moved the mouse to the browser so I went back pages and lost it all. I LOVE TECHNOLOGY! Anyway, long story short: I can relate from when I had multiple preps in L-town and having more than one class to prepare for definitely makes it more difficult (one of the reasons I took the job I did is: one prep). Also, the fact that you are reflecting deeply and demonstrating a willingness to move forward is extremely powerful, I suggest running with it. Yet, don’t go for too much too fast. Pick a course to focus on, or let inspiration hit you. When you get an idea to revamp an activity/lesson/unit, do it. Don’t hold yourself to the unattainable of doing every lesson the ideal way, change what you can and as you go on you will get better, and you will have more and more of a “tool bag” on which to draw. As you said, the teacher is the most important aspect of a classroom, so take a look at what you are doing. What kinds of questions are you asking as you teach? (record yourself, and listen to it) By asking more thought-provoking, open-ended questions you will learn more about what the students are thinking and be able to better engage them mentally. Mental engagement is not just about kids looking interested, it is about how hard they have to think. I do not mean to ask questions over your students’ heads, but to ask questions that encourage thought (ex: Instead of asking, “What does Y equal in this equation?” ask, “Why does y = 3 make sense?” or “How can we confirm our answer?” This seems like a small difference, but for the student who doesn’t get it the answer to the simple question just tells them they got the answer wrong. However, the answer to the more open-ended question has another students explaining why the answer works. Changing your interaction pattern is something that will improve your teaching and doesn’t require complete overhaul of your lessons. I know you have probably heard this before, but it is so easy to slip back into the short little one word answer questions because it is easy (for teacher and student). Hope I didn’t overload you, just kinda got on a roll. :)

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  6. Matt says:

    I’m not overloaded. I understand your points and like to think I ask my fair share of open-ended questions, but the majority are easily recall questions. It seems like I’m bumper bowling with my teaching strategies. Whenever I try to move away from lecture based, teacher-centered, drone-style teaching, I lose the students. This style is what they are use to. So I am forced back into their comfort zone if I want to accomplsih anything. They don’t know how to react to a “conversation” lesson. They want to be told how to do it, get their assignment….which better not have any critical thinking questions or “story problems” on it…..so I can get it done quickly, get assigned a grade and go on with my life. I’m struggling with how to break that mold, this system of thought that students have been programed with throughout their educational experience. But whenever I try to dedicate any considerable time into this, I have to break up a fight, or deal with some unruly student. (I am basically the building “bouncer” so any conflicts or disciplinary issues are brought to me….during class.) Sometimes I feel more like a probation officer than a teacher.

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    • jerridkruse says:

      That problem is very difficult – student come into classes with preconceptions about the content we are teaching, but even greater preconceptions of what school is supposed to look like. A friend of mine and I spent a semester last year researching that very problem: student resistance to reforms-based teaching, and are currently working on analyzing that data….it will be very interesting. Many students have gotten so good at the ‘game’ that they don’t want to give it up. I hit them hard at the beginning of the year and try and maintain pressure on what they believe about school – I even explicitly have conversations asking them, “why do you like to be told answers?” or “how is being told what to think different than understanding something?” These conversations shed some very interesting light on student views about school.

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  7. Megan Roelfs says:

    In reference to the video I completely agree with almost everything that was said, the facebooking through class, the cell phone talking, tv time, buying textbooks that you never open, rarely doing class reading.. it’s all very sad that I can look back and see that I too fell into that trap. I don’t think it was until I started taking actual “teaching” classes that I began paying attention. It was actually my internet use in class (i.e. my “multitasking) that made me realize that multitasking is a myth.

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