digital nation - life on the virtual frontier

Multitasking at M.I.T.

December 24, 2009 _ 16:22 / Digital Nation Team / comments (2)

At the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, one of the most high powered universities in the world, students claim they can and must multitask through all parts of their lives -- on their laptops doing work, in class, and even at the bar. They say they're preparing for a world that demands short term bursts of attention and the ability to manage multiple streams of information at once. Their professors, however, are concerned that in all this Googling, something integral to the university experience is being lost. What do you think?


Multi-tasking may be integral to the university experience, but being a "thought worker" isn't integral to what is coming next in American society.

I moved from white collar, and service industry jobs, to a hands-on mechanic position in a growing industry. Multi-tasking isn't what is valued in the world I operate in - attention to detail, craft, and fidelity are.

I use social media and the web to advertise my goods and services (at a fraction of the cost it would have cost me previously to gain a world-wide audience). Yet I am compelled to put the machines away and get to work creating or fixing things for other people.

The devices and technologies are tools (unless you're the person designing or manufacturing them), and not the end point of some techno-utopian fantasy.

Josef Bray-Ali / December 25, 2009 _ 03:41

on an sidenote, kids more often do know more than their parents do about the internet and computer. they've lived with it their entire lives from schoolwork to games and social networking, though increasingly, new parents today will be only slightly behind their own kids in technology.

Multitasking is obviously not something your average kid can do well. It requires memory, capability to process information and action efficiently, and a concentration on specific things at a time. It's the same as how some kids have better memory than others or how some kids do better in sports. If a person can play chess well with a blindfold on, then their capacity to do things changes.

The type of field and the subject of concentration will determine the need to multitask. Taking a test is not the same as working in a corporate office with multiple phone lines. The effectiveness of multitasking probably varies from person to person so professors all over are just blaming technology in a host of other possible problems e.g. how a student learns best (visual learner, audio, note, interactive, etc.) If students can successfully do it, it should be fine. There are classrooms in the U.S. where students are banned from using electronics and focus just on the teacher lecturing. Does that mean they are doing any better in class? Does it mean they're getting anything more from it? No. It depends on the material being taught, how much it hinges on student thinking and interaction, and whether or not the student can easily or is willing to learn.

atmzeal / December 27, 2009 _ 05:21


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