Multitasking. Really?

"But I'm multitasking!"

-What nearly every student tells me when I tell them to get off their MyBook and focus on their academic work.

"If you're multitasking, why is it you're not getting anything done?"

-A rough paraphrase of my usual response

Somehow all my students have been sold that multitasking is a wonderful thing and they should do it whenever they can. Did they learn this in middle school? Is it just a part of pop culture now?

In my opinion, multitasking is best when you don't have much to accomplish in a large block of time. I love multitasking. When it comes down to getting some serious work done I turn off the twitter, shut down email, facebook, the aggregator, and the youtube. I might keep the tunes, but turn it to something low key and quiet.

The world of my students teaches them they should be doing 5 things at once. They don't need that reinforced at school. Perhaps we should be teaching them focus.

I could be wrong. After all, I'm notoriously bad at focusing.

Focus vs. filtering

I've been using the laptops a good bit in my classes recently.¹ Students often stray off the assigned task to check their MySpace, Facebook, check their email, or one of many other options.

I realize that it may be a rare and wonderful activity that captivates my 14 year old students' mind more than reading comments on their MySpace page, yet I feel students need to learn to focus on an activity when there are other options available.

How much censoring should I do of their wanderings? Currently I keep a close watch: If they quick check an email, the boxscore to last night's game, or their profile page and flip back to the assignment, I don't say anything. After all I function much like that when I'm working. If they're lingering a little too long or falling behind, then I ask them to stay off all other sites.

I don't want to block everything, but I also don't want to put my students in a situation where they can choose to fail via social networked distraction. Sometimes I catch myself wishing the school would block these sites; thus saving me the hassle.

But who am I to require students to focus on only one thing?


¹ I'll share some of what I've done this week on this blog soon.

Image: Screenshot from my work computer