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Laptops in the Classroom: Multi-tasking or Multi-distracting, & Is Half-witted Attention Enough? Jeff King, TCU 2010 TFDN Conference Ft. Worth, TX | June.

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Presentation on theme: "Laptops in the Classroom: Multi-tasking or Multi-distracting, & Is Half-witted Attention Enough? Jeff King, TCU 2010 TFDN Conference Ft. Worth, TX | June."— Presentation transcript:

1 Laptops in the Classroom: Multi-tasking or Multi-distracting, & Is Half-witted Attention Enough? Jeff King, TCU 2010 TFDN Conference Ft. Worth, TX | June 2010

2 – Click “Frontline”

3 (Jeff): Laptops in the classroom? (Student Meredith): A lot of time they’re used for Facebook. (Student Sam): All the time. (Student Meredith): If it’s like a really... I have a Physiology class, and you couldn’t take that kind of class unless you had a laptop. (Student Meredith): The person talked so quickly that your hands, my hands would cramp at the end. (Student Sam): I still finger type, so... (Student Meredith): It really depends on your students, but a lot of them, I’d say 90% of the time, people are on Facebook. (Student Sam): I would always check fantasy football whenever I brought my laptop to class, so I just stopped. (Student Meredith): They’re actually very distract- ing if you’re in stadium seating and someone’s on Facebook, like, two rows down, and they’re watching pictures... (Student Sam): Watching YouTube videos...

4 and they’re watching pictures...

5 (Student Sam): Watching YouTube videos... and they’re watching pictures which means they’re not attending to the lesson, engaging with the material in a focused way...

6 ... which means they’re not attending to the lesson, engaging with the material in a focused way because...

7 THEY CAN’T!

8 (but they’ve been told all their lives that they can)

9 “... we are completely capable.”

10 “... self-described multitaskers per- formed much worse on cognitive and memory tasks that involved distraction than did people who said they preferred to focus on single tasks.” -- from research by Clifford Nass, Stanford

11 “Einstein didn't invent the theory of relativity while multi-tasking at the Swiss patent office.” --David Meyer, Univ. of Michigan multitasking researcher

12 The Orienting Response:

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18 Teach students: Multi-tasking Generation M is NOT better at “multi-tasking” “Multi-tasking” is actually task switching Trying to direct cognitive attention to 2 things at once creates a mental brown-out “Multi-tasking” while studying = surface learning striatum ! This is important. Striatum- based memory is procedural, not pre-frontal cortex-based.

19 CLUE CLUES to why students “just want to know what to memorize for the test” Striatum used more in “multi-tasking” Striatum use during “multi-tasking” is at the expense of the pre-frontal cortex & hippocampus, parts required for deep learning & processing Striatum stores information about habitual tasks, exactly the kind of task that rote memorization exemplifies

20 From Hembrooke & Gay (2003):

21 Suggestions: 1st day of class: “‘Multi-tasking’ is B.S. Here’s the proof. We’ll use laptops only for focused learning activities.” “Since cellphones, PDAs, Blackberries, etc., aren’t used to focus on class content, we won’t use them.” “The issue isn’t laptops or cellphones or doodling on a piece of paper. The issue is focus as a necessary skill developed as part of college-level learning. I will help you develop that skill.”

22 Finally:... many lectures at MIT have no more than one or two laptops open. If the lecture being present- ed is note-heavy, important and interesting, you will find a hundred #2 pencils flying over paper & only hear the typing of one or two people catch- ing up on .

23 Short List of References: “Mental Brownout” – Just, M. A., Carpenter, P. A., Keller, T. A., Emery, L., Zajac, H., & Thulborn, K. R. (2001). Interdependence of nonoverlapping cortical systems in dual cognitive tasks. NeuroImage, 14, (Carnegie Mellon) “Striatum” – Foerde, K., Knowlton, B. J., & Poldrack, R. A. (2006). Modulation of competing memory systems by distraction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103(31),11778 ‑ (UCLA) “Task Switching” – Rubenstein, J. S., Meyer, D. E., & Evans, J. E. (2001). Executive control of cognitive processes in task switching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27, (Univ. of Michigan) “Specific Research about Laptops in Class” – Hembrooke, H., & Gay, G. (2003). The laptop and the lecture: The effects of multitasking in learning environments. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 15(1), (Cornell) “Self-described ‘Multitasking’ Experts Are Not” – Ophir, E., Nass, C., & Wagner, A. D. (2009, September 15). Cognitive control in media multitaskers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(37),

24 A suggestion for developing your own skill at NOT multitasking (i.e., developing skill as a “monotasker”): Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life. Winifred Gallagher, Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neouroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom. Rick Hanson with Richard Mendius, The Power of Mindful Learning. Ellen Langer, Mindfulness. Ellen Langer, 1990.


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