MultiTasking Bad for the Brain

While teaching in the classroom I was used to being pretty sequential. Focus on the task on hand, execute it, reflect, move on. This new job is an intellectual helterskelter. I’m constantly juggling 5 or 6 ideas in my head (and trying to follow up them) at once. Multitasking the follow through.

Bad idea.

Concrete studies support the fact that multitasking is costly. From Stanford University:

The researchers are still studying whether chronic media multitaskers are born with an inability to concentrate or are damaging their cognitive control by willingly taking in so much at once. But they’re convinced the minds of multitaskers are not working as well as they could.

Our brains just aren’t built for juggling lots of things at once.

What implications does this have for online learning?

There is a higher temptation to multitask with online learning. You can have facebook open in a tab, email in another, Pandora running in the background, Tweeter on the side, etc.

How hard does it become to execute a task? Or execute with thought?

Very hard.

How can teachers influence their students to focus on ONE thing? Certainly build awareness at the beginning of a class helps (I personally think running some exercises that demonstrate WHY multitasking is bad). To some extent this a self-control issue (something all teachers wrestle with – in and out of the classroom).