BISBuzz Digital Citizenship Growing Up Digital

Part 5: Growing up Digital 2

The Multi-Tasking Myth

As a number of our students will be engaging in revision for their mock exams productive and effective study habits are desirable to maximise the time they have available to them. At these times of individual study the window, a novel, crossword or magazine have always been challenging distractions  in our hyperconnected world smartphones, facebook, and the like place significant stress on these focussing skills.

Psychological Research over the last decade has cast serious doubt over the notion that multi-tasking offers increased efficiency, some suggesting that, in fact, it can reduce efficiency by up to 40% adding that switching from one task to another makes it difficult to tune out distractions and can cause mental blocks that can slow down your progress.

Place this in the context of student homework  or revision and there is an obvious issue to address. Homework is a valuable mechanism for offering students the opportunity to internalise new ideas, rehearse key skills and demonstrate understanding on an individual basis, a critical element of the educational process. However, there is a growing wealth of evidence to challenge this notion when homework is excessive. The key to productive homework, or productive cognitive activity is focus. We are all constantly distracted by phone calls, texts, email, or social media, this distracts us from our tasks, reduces efficiency and in the context of homework increases the time required and quality of the learning undertaken.

The ability to manage these distractions is not innate, it is not inherently present as I am sure we can all testify to, but it is something you can develop and is an integral part of being efficient and productive. As teachers and parents we should remain aware that young people may not be able to manage these distractions and may need support. Examples of such support include family media agreements where through discussion parents and their children agree on what is an appropriate amount of access and make a formal agreements to adhere to it. The ultimate goal and long term aim of this support is that the young person will be able to choose to shut down facebook/ skype/ twitter and put their phone on silent recognising the importance and inherent benefits of focused attention.

These are some of the challenges that face us as the adults responsible for preparing our students for the world that awaits them. These tools are incredibly powerful and whether you hold a view that it enriches social interactions or that it does not they are an integral part of the world we inhabit. As we harness the power of modern advances in technology to enrich learning, business practices, entertainment and socialising we must also take the time to recognise and address the importance of developing responsible online citizens conscious of their own personal safety, online presence whilst possessing the understanding necessary to engage confidently and appropriately within the global digital community.

The link below summarises a story where a 7 year old girl used the power of the internet to tackle the poor quality of food available in her school canteen.

BBC article