Thursday, November 27, 2008

Students are NOT multi-taskers

I don't know how many times I hear this each day, but it seems to be the excuse on everybody lips. "Students today are multi-taskers."

Bull. Students today are exactly like students yesterday, students a decade ago, and students in my generation. There is no physiological or psychological difference that makes them more able to multi-task than any other human. Individuals may be able to do more than others, but the differences are not age-based.

Watch your own students. Watch someone else's. Watch them in the supermarket, at the skate park, in casual settings. They are just like you were. They can focus completely on one thing at a time when they want to. Watch (if you can) four straight hours of practicing a particular grind on a certain rail configuration or repeated hikes up the halfpipe to do a McTwist or a frontside 1080 over and over. Watch as they practice guitar hero for hours. Today's teenagers are exactly like yesterday's except the music has changed (not it's attitude, only the names).

When we claim that students can multi-task, we allow them to excuse their lack of focus in the classroom and explain away their inattention to algebra. We reinforce flightiness instead of letting them find out what being "in the zone" is really like in academics.

Still don't believe me? Have them read Gould's article "The Median Isn't the Message" while you are talking about measures of central tendency. How well does that multitasking work out for them now?

Can they text/phone while driving? No. No one can do that. Attentional blindness is a human failing not a aged one.

Can they even have friends in the car during their first months of having a license? No, because the friends are too distracting.

Can they listen to music while typing a paper? Mostly no, but it depends on the music - always has.

Can they text in class and understand what you just said? No. Sure, they "heard" it but they weren't listening. All of you teachers know the difference.

Ask a simple question to find out who's listening -
"If I take the high value of a data set and change it to a number large enough to be an outlier, which of the following will change and in what way?
mean, mode, median, IQR."
"What if I made that same number SMALL enough to be an outlier?"

1 comment:

  1. here here!!!
    It has gotten so bad that students demand that they have their IPODS on during examinations--helps to think better they say!