Teens Can Multitask, But What Are Costs? – washingtonpost.com

I think that this is potentially a major issue that we will have to consider when using more open systems in education. For example, how to I ensure that my students are “on task” in Second Life when they could be doing 10 other things online.

This is true of classroom-based and distance courses. If I’m online discussing topics with students I want them to “listen” to what I and other students are saying. If they are off on other channels, they are simply going to miss it. There is no true “multitasking”. Something is always hurting. I, for one, have always studied with the TV on. It’s a terrible habit, but I’ve been doing with since I started school. I have trouble studying without it. However, I KNOW that I’m not studying as well (as efficiently) with it on.

So, can you multitask? Sure. Is it as effective as focusing on one task and completing it before you do another? Likely not.

Like the researcher in the article says, it’s all about depth. Shallow activities (checking out Web pages, listening/wathcing TV, checking email/blogs/rss, and so forth) can be done more efficiently in many cases. Web pages take time to load and other things take time to process. During that time to you can flip through another email.

Deeper activities, like reading a academic article require much more attention and depth of processing. You are not just gathering bits of information in these activities. You are gather information, comparing it to what you already know, judging whether it’s worth keeping or not, deciding how it applies to the rest of your learning, filing away relevant aspects for future use.

If you can do that effectively and efficienty while managing chats, TV, and so forth you are amazing….and really too good to be true.

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