Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Can We Teach Students Not To Multitask?

Man, Office, Businessman, Business  We are all aware of the myth swirling around society.  The one stating we can all multitask but those of us who stay abreast of research know it is a myth.  Although you may being trying to do a variety of things at once such as surfing the internet, texting on your phone, listening to music, or reading a book, we know you can only focus on one thing at a time.

Recent neuroscience research shows that our brain is not capable of multitasking in the ways we thought possible.  Even attempting to do two things at once is still not possible.  What we think of as multitasking is not.  What actually happens is that every time we change our focus, our brains go through a start and stop process that in the long run wastes time.  We actually become less efficient. In addition, we make more mistakes and it can sap our energy.

So how do we convince our students not to multitask.  My school does not allow the use of mobile devices in school during the day except for lunch because students want to spend time checking for texts or listening to music.  In one study it was discovered students could not go more than two minutes before checking their facebook account or reading texts and by the end of 15 minutes only 65% of their time had been applied to studying. 

This same article indicates that results from various studies indicate student learning is not as deep or good as if they apply their full attention to studying.  In addition, they understand and remember less and are unable to transfer knowledge as well as they should. 

My students are always telling me they need their device so they can listen to music while they study.  I allow it in the evenings during study hall and I've noticed they spend more time actually switching between songs than they do studying.  When I point it out, they tell me it is not interfering with their studying.

So I struggle with convincing my students they are wrong.  I found a lovely activity at Psychology Today to show them multitasking is a myth.  It is easy to do and you might change it a bit to let them text while doing it.  I don't know if I'll convince them of it but I'll keep trying.