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  1. #1 Multitasking Is A Failure. 
    Divided Attention

    In an age of classroom multitasking, scholars probe the nature of learning and memory

    By David Glenn

    Imagine that driving across town, you've fallen into a reverie, meditating on lost loves or calculating your next tax payments. You're so distracted that you rear-end the car in front of you at 10 miles an hour. You probably think: Damn. My fault. My mind just wasn't there.

    By contrast, imagine that you drive across town in a state of mild exhilaration, multitasking on your way to a sales meeting. You're drinking coffee and talking to your boss on a cellphone, practicing your pitch. You cause an identical accident. You've heard all the warnings about cellphones and driving—but on a gut level, this wreck might bewilder you in a way that the first scenario didn't. Wasn't I operating at peak alertness just then? Your brain had been aroused to perform several tasks, and you had an illusory sense that you must be performing them well.

    That illusion of competence is one of the things that worry scholars who study attention, cognition, and the classroom. Students' minds have been wandering since the dawn of education. But until recently—so the worry goes—students at least knew when they had checked out. A student today who moves his attention rapid-fire from text-messaging to the lecture to Facebook to note-taking and back again may walk away from the class feeling buzzed and alert, with a sense that he has absorbed much more of the lesson than he actually has.

    "Heavy multitaskers are often extremely confident in their abilities," says Clifford I. Nass, a professor of psychology at Stanford University. "But there's evidence that those people are actually worse at multitasking than most people."

    Indeed, last summer Nass and two colleagues published a study that found that self-described multitaskers performed much worse on cognitive and memory tasks that involved distraction than did people who said they preferred to focus on single tasks. Nass says he was surprised at the result: He had expected the multitaskers to perform better on at least some elements of the test. But no. The study was yet another piece of evidence for the unwisdom of multitasking.

    Experiments like that one have added fuel to the perpetual debate about whether laptops should be allowed in classrooms. But that is just one small, prosaic part of this terrain. Nass and other scholars of attention and alertness say their work has the potential to illuminate unsettled questions about the nature of learning, memory, and intelligence.
    More at the link. I've never had any illusions about this. I don't multitask unless I'm doing something so deeply ingrained and lacking in intellectual challenge that it requires literally no thought. I might mow the lawn and rehearse a presentation in my mind but that's it.

    The Chronicle Review
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  2. #2  
    CU's Tallest Midget! PoliCon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gingersnap View Post
    More at the link. I've never had any illusions about this. I don't multitask unless I'm doing something so deeply ingrained and lacking in intellectual challenge that it requires literally no thought. I might mow the lawn and rehearse a presentation in my mind but that's it.

    The Chronicle Review
    Multitasking only works when one of the tasks being done is deeply ingrained and/or mindless.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PoliCon View Post
    Multitasking only works when one of the tasks being done is deeply ingrained and/or mindless.
    I must know dozens of women who pride themselves on their multitasking skills. Having sat and watched them perform, I can only describe the scene as a slow motion train wreck. If you need to talk to your kid, talk to your kid. If you need to organize travel arrangements to Sumatra - do that. If it's time to read your email, then read it. Just don't try to do all of that at once.

    When I see someone juggling several tasks at once I automatically think that I'm either looking at the receptionist or looking at someone who can't do time management.
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    My Audit Supervisor in the Sales Tax Section could write a letter ruling and talk to a taxpayer on the phone about a completely different tax issue at the same time. She would blow me away when I saw her doing that. These letter ruling had the effect of law and could be used as evidence in tax court.
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    CU's Tallest Midget! PoliCon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gingersnap View Post
    I must know dozens of women who pride themselves on their multitasking skills. Having sat and watched them perform, I can only describe the scene as a slow motion train wreck. If you need to talk to your kid, talk to your kid. If you need to organize travel arrangements to Sumatra - do that. If it's time to read your email, then read it. Just don't try to do all of that at once.

    When I see someone juggling several tasks at once I automatically think that I'm either looking at the receptionist or looking at someone who can't do time management.
    Like I said - it only works when one of the tasks can be done mindlessly. In fact, that's one of the few times I'm willing to multitask - when I'm doing a task that requires very little thought I'm going to find some other task I can do at the same time to keep me for losing my mind to boredom.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lacarnut View Post
    My Audit Supervisor in the Sales Tax Section could write a letter ruling and talk to a taxpayer on the phone about a completely different tax issue at the same time. She would blow me away when I saw her doing that. These letter ruling had the effect of law and could be used as evidence in tax court.
    That to me is amazing! I can't talk and program the microwave at the same time.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rockntractor View Post
    That to me is amazing! I can't talk and program the microwave at the same time.
    I think she had a photographic memory cause she could quote hundreds of statues out of the sales tax law book word for word. People that smart piss me off. The Department went to pot when she retired.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lacarnut View Post
    I think she had a photographic memory cause she could quote hundreds of statues out of the sales tax law book word for word. People that smart piss me off. The Department went to pot when she retired.
    I don't doubt it. I knew a guy who could cram his fist in his mouth after a couple drinks. That doesn't mean that most of us could (or should) do it.

    In my field, multitasking is just considered illusionary. Alpha geeks more or less pride themselves on focusing so hard on a task that they have to be physically removed from their stations during a fire. ;)
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    CU's Tallest Midget! PoliCon's Avatar
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    alpha geek? Is that anything like a Geek Goddess?

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    We fool ourselves when thinking that when today's children try to do homework while listening to an Ipod, texting one friend and posting on facebook to another, they are really exhibiting a new and valuable skill or ability which will help them thrive in the new information age. The bottom line is that a distraction is simply distraction, which means getting somewhat involved in many things, while getting fully involved in nothing.
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