In recent discussions of the younger generation’s constant use of technology and internet, like smart phones, a controversial issue has been raised. The issues revolves around whether or not this generation can successfully multitask. When I say multitasking I’m referring, for one example, listening to a lecture and texting friends simultaneously. On one hand the kids of this generation, and even the older folks who have observed this technological phenomenon, would say there is no doubt that these children have developed an incredible aptitude for multitasking. However, studies suggest that in fact no one is capable of multitasking. According to Charles J. Abate in his article for NEA “You Say Multitasking Like It’s a Good Thing” he points out that unlike computers the human brain can only work in a linear fashion. This means that we cannot possibly focus on more than one task at a time. Those who are believed to be really proficient at multitasking are actually just really good at switching from task to task very rapidly. Abate comes to the conclusion that those who “multitask” ultimately end up being much less efficient in their work than those who only focus on the current task.
My own view on this tracks with that of Abate as well as Leah Levy who wrote “7 Ways to Deal With Digital Natives”. Though I concede that it will take a lot to dislodge this misconception from the brains of the population, especially those of “digital natives”. The children who’ve grown up constantly using technology and the internet want to believe that they can do it all, just like their smart phone. However, it doesn’t seem like a new idea to us that it is impossible to focus on more than one task at a time. If we could multitask, we might be able to work on a PowerPoint presentation and write a paper at the same time. This is an important misconception to dispel from people of all ages because if we continue to allow today’s children to attempt “multitasking” we are letting their education suffer. Abate explains that learning happens in the hippocampus while small, habitual learning and tasks occur in the striatum. When someone attempts to multitask their learning switches over to the striatum which then prevents your brain from applying and organizing this new information. The plummet in standardized test scores year after year surely seems to confirm the theory that student’s instance on being able to multitask is actually preventing them from retaining adequate amount of information.
Levy, Leah (2014). 7 Ways to Deal With Digital Natives. Edudemic: Connecting Education and Technology. Retrieved from: http://www.edudemic.com/7-ways-deal-digital-distractions/
Abate, Charles J. You Say Multitasking Like It’s a Good Thing. The NEA Higher Education Journal. Retrieved from: http://www.nea.org/home/3058.html