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Multitasking

Multitasking gets lots of attention…but true multi-tasking doesn’t exist (rapid task switching may leave the impression of multi-tasking). A recent paper addresses this concept – The Autumn of Multitaskers: “Multitasking messes with the brain in several ways. At the most basic level, the mental balancing acts that it requires—the constant switching and pivoting—energize regions of the brain that specialize in visual processing and physical coordination and simultaneously appear to shortchange some of the higher areas related to memory and learning. We concentrate on the act of concentration at the expense of whatever it is that we’re supposed to be concentrating on.”

2 Comments

  1. Virginia Yonkers wrote:

    I question the working definition of Multi-tasking that they use. I think of task switching as a skill needed to accomplish multiple tasks that need to be done simultaneously rather than sequentially. I have read research that indicated that women in our society have a great ability to use both sides of the brain, switching back and forth. One reason given (I forgot where I read it or I would link it) is because child rearing requires being able to monitor multiple tasks (thus multi-tasking).

    I found when I taught in Costa Rica, a society that is polychronic (multiple tasks, conversations), I developed excellent skills in being able to monitor multiple conversations (often in multiple languages). I look at the generation coming up and am amazed at how they can talk on a cell phone, take notes, carry on a discussion with a person next to them, and even do administrative business such as choose their classes, all at the same time! I think they must be missing something in the depth, yet they are still able to achieve a lot in a short period of time. Is a culture changing to polychronic because of our mobile technology and is it important therefore to teach monitoring and networking skills that Connectivism would suggest?

    Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 8:13 am | Permalink
  2. cindyu wrote:

    Polychrons of the world unite! Today I was virtual mom (on videochat with my sick child just prior to a conference session), virtual colleague (Twittering during conference presentations), f2f colleague (conversing in between spaces) and now I am virtually exhausted!

    I posted some further thoughts on this: http://cindyu.wordpress.com/

    I agree with you, Virginia – it may be time for a new definition of multi-tasking. Perhaps one that focuses on the dangers of chronic, habitual practice?

    Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 3:45 pm | Permalink