“The issue with multi-tasking is that we need to understand its dramatic and negative effect on learning. Simply stated, multi-tasking and learning do not mix well.”

A couple weeks ago we began to look at the topic of “multi-tasking.” If you read the article, and were not multi-tasking at the time, you might remember some of the interesting quotes in the article. If you were multi-tasking, you might not even remember that you read the article. This is because learning and memory is seriously compromised by multi-tasking. We all multi-task at times throughout the day (chewing gum and walking, talking on the phone and writing yourself a note, etc.) and this is a part of life. The issue with multi-tasking is that we need to understand its dramatic and negative effect on learning. Simply stated, multi-tasking and learning do not mix well.

Can you learn while multi-tasking? Sure. It is not impossible to learn new things while multi-tasking but the problem is that the learning is not as effective and is compromised by the multi-tasking. Studies have shown that the learning done during multi-tasking actually resides differently in the brain and this makes it harder to recall later. 

Not only is the learning not as effective it is not as efficient either. Many of us adults and especially our children believe that we are being much more efficient because we are multi-tasking. This misconception is simply wrong. We would complete our tasks faster and learn more if we would not multi-task and instead focus on one thing at a time and work on it until completion before moving on to the next item.

If it has a negative effect on learning, what can we do to help our children? Here is short list of ideas for parents:

  1. Do not try to convince your children that multi-tasking is not good. They will not believe you so just skip trying to convince them and instead look at ways to minimize multi-tasking.
  2. Create a good learning environment for your children in your home. A nice desk in a quiet area of the house which is away from distractions and noise. However, it should not be in an isolated area. The subtle accountability of others helps to keep them on task.
  3. Limit their access to multi-tasking technology (when they are learning). They need to work on the computer/iPad for many different aspects of homework but they do not need to have Facebook, YouTube, etc., open as well. 
  4. Take time to teach your children to be focused and how to stay on task before moving on to new things. The ability to stay focused and complete work is a great life skill that will benefit them throughout life.

As most of you know I am very much in favor of technology and its use in schools. Technology has created the opportunity for us to do many things at once and that has its benefits but we need to be willing to be “old school” when it comes to learning.

Written by Karl Steinkamp

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Head of School since 2006.
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