Thursday, May 6, 2010

To Multi-Task or Not to Multi-Task: Are we losing the ability to really focus?

(CC licensed image credit)
How much do you really focus when multi-tasking? When you see a student doing "homework" and he is at a computer IMing, with several browsers open (which may be homework related), has the TV on in the background, his iPod in his ears, do you ever wonder how much he is actually getting done on his homework? And perhaps the bigger question- what is the quality of the homework?

I came across an intriguing blog post from How to Get Focused that says according to science, we can really only do ONE thing at a time when we truly need to focus. I totally relate - like right now, I have my Kindle open to a book, I'm eating lunch and I have exactly 8 browsers open (including an email partially written). But that's usually just when I'm doing "busy work" kinds of tasks. When I really need to focus on something, I clear my desk and focus on that one thing. (planning engaging, thoughtful lessons or writing a book review, etc.)

Kids, however, are so used to doing multiple tasks at a time, it makes me wonder if it's going to be harder and harder for this next generation to turn the concentration on when needed. Are so many kids truly ADHD, or is it more likely they've become accustomed to multiple stimulation? Is the multi-tasking environment hampering the ability to truly focus? Do we think kids are more creative in this environment or less creative?

So my question is, just because we multi-task, should we?