The Myth of Multitasking...A Practical Experiment

"Multi-tasking" is a concept that is misunderstood by most, overly used as an excuse, mostly mythical for practical purposes, and avoidable.

Photo of JD Ferries-Rowe
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The combination of so much available sensory input, so many tasks on the to-do list of the modern teenager, and the prevalence of so many examples of teachers, parents, politicians, and other adults who provide a bad example have created the illusion that multi-tasking is useful, achievable, and efficient -- when for most people it does not even exist.

As part of the goal of forming the "habits of mind" necessary to become a digital citizen, this proposal will develop a multi-day, multi-pronged approach to showing each student the reality of multi-tasking through actual in-class experiments, reflections on readings from psychiatry, neuro-science, and business people, and culminate in a class-developed plan to begin eliminating task/attention switching behavior from our daily lives. 

Day 1/Pre-work: Journal Reflection on Habits of homework and multitasking

Day 2: Experiments in multi-tasking (large group and small group/teams) - In-class Discussion

Day 3/Homework: Readings on multi-tasking vs. task-switching w/ reflection assignment

Day 4: Group work/Team work - The FIVE THINGS TO CHANGE project - development of a "campaign" around five habits for students to adopt that will break them out of the task-switching cycle. 

Day 5: Gallery Walk and development of the classroom version of the TOP FIVE

(Note: extension projects/cross application could include the development of a public awareness campaign for the school that would make use of tools to develop inforgraphics/animatics, social media videos, etc.)

Share research or student experiences that informed your idea!

I first became acutely aware of the muti-tasking vs. task-switching issue while reading GETTING ORGANIZED IN THE GOOGLE ERA years ago. But for all practical purposes it was not until becoming the parent of a teenager that I noticed both the problem of multi-tasking and my role as being a bad example for my child.

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Photo of Paul Kim

JD -- I love that you have laid out steps to address this instead of just telling kids to stop. Also love the element of personal experience.