Sunday, June 22, 2008


I really enjoyed the article about teenagers and cognitive multi-tasking that Elizabeth posted. While I do believe that, in general, the cons outweigh the pros of this multi-tasking, I also think that it depends on what kind of a learner you are. I do my best work when I am at the library or in a quiet corner on the patio of my apartment building. If I attempt to do work in my apartment I find myself easily distracted by the television or by my computer. My sister Lizzie is an editor and she does her best work in her living room with the TV on in the background. Lizzie and I have different learning/working styles. We both took tests while we were in grammar school to find out what kind of learners we were. I was a linguistic learner while Lizzie was an aural learner, which explains why I like to be in a quiet place where I can concentrate completely on what I am reading or writing and why Lizzie prefers to have background noise while she is working.

That being said, I think that children in today’s society are almost forced to be multi-taskers, regardless of what their learning style may be. Adolescents seem to have a lot more going on in their lives these days. It seems that the norm for fourteen year olds is having their very own cell phone and having scheduled activities nearly all day long. Children today have many more forms of media available to them and they seem to be using all these forms simultaneously. The article discussed adolescents who were studying while instant messaging and downloading songs on iTunes. I have to wonder if children today shorten their attention spans by using these different forms of media simultaneously. It seems almost as though adolescents are not capable of focusing on thing at a time, they would rather have a lot going on around them.

I think the new rule at John’s school is interesting. I wonder if it will really be enforced? If it is enforced it would be very interesting to see whether the children did better while just focusing on their schoolwork or whether they have become so adept at multiplicity that they actually do better while they are online, watching TV, etc. and doing homework at the same time.


Anonymous said...

You hit the nail right on the head referring to today’s kids being forced into a multitasking mentality.

I believe the majority of average young Americans are expanding their adolescence or because of our technologies, adolescence is being stretched out for an extra four or five years.

Adolescence in the sense of developing neurological functions such as social-skills, moral reasoning, planning and so on.

Our social culture is encouraged (I think) to embrace the multitasking technological revolution, which in turn elongates adolescence.

As far as wondering what the results would be if the students would do better with their homework if they were isolated from technological distraction, I feel is neither here nor there. A rule of such nature could never be enforced on a society that worships technological consumerism communiqué.

As far as spelling goes, a student with a writing assignment might be more prone now to misspell words because of their frequent use of Microsoft Word and other computer programs. But I think on the general reading, arithmetic and science homework assignments students face, completing and comprehending them would be accomplished on similar levels whether done in front or away from the television.

There are certain exaggerations that are accompanied with the theories and speculations that revolve around technological distractions students’ face when doing schoolwork at home. A student might have the internet right in front of them, the television on in the wee background, and a cell phone out waiting for a call, and be completely focused on their homework assignment. To them (the determined focused ones), their background technologies are mostly present to comfort them from distraction.

Lance Strate said...

Postman's argument in his book Teaching as a Conserving Activity would be relevant here. Postman argued that schools should not go along with prevailing trends in the society, because that's what comes naturally to kids and therefore that's what they least require instruction in. Instead, schools should work as agents of balance and homeostasis, a thermostatic function, and emphasize the literate bias, which includes focusing on one thing at a time, to counterbalance the prevailing tendencies of television and the electronic media, including digital media.