Multitasking: Skating on the Surface of Knowledge

Multitasking: Skating on the Surface of Knowledge

Right now I am surrounded by technology and all kinds of distractions. I am watching a presentation on the big screen. I’m typing on my blog on my laptop. There is a book in front of me. My iPod shuffle is charging (not really a distraction, but it is present). I also have my iPad in case I need one other thing to do while I’m sitting here. And with the push of a button, I can learn anything about anything.

But can I do this all at the same time? Am I informing myself or cheating myself?

Skating on the surface of knowledge is what I seem to do more and more, and I think of this as a survival technique to keep me from sinking into the depths. This weekend, I was researching the concept of using badges in the classroom. As I searched, I kept finding link after link after link. All of it seems relevant and good, but how can I possibly know everything? In order to cope with all of this information, I skim, skate, water ski on the surface by taking in bits and pieces from all over, but never feeling like I’m taking the time to sink in and really learn.

The other consequence (or advantage?) of skating is that when I get distracted, I might end up twenty miles away from where I started. For example, just now, I caught myself wondering whether I spelled “water ski” correctly. So I was going to stop typing, and look up water skiing. After I do that, I might click on another link, and soon I’ll end up booking a trip somewhere to learn how to water ski forgetting about this blog entirely. So I am resisting. If it is spelled wrong, so be it.

However, you can’t blame the internet for this type of mindlessness (opposite of mindfulness?). Today, as I was driving, i started thinking, deeply about the world and my upcoming class. I ended up missing my interstate exit, which prompted me to pull out my iPad at a red light to see where I was and how I could get back to where I wanted to be. On the bright side, I learned where the road led, and I found a new route through the city. I’m sure there is a metaphor there.

The big question I have is that despite the criticism of current learners and all of their distractions, the multitasking isn’t going to go away. Is this a bad thing? Just because we’re learning differently about different things in different ways, does that necessarily make it a negative?

I know there are lots of studies on both sides of this issue. I just wanted to see what I would say about it. 

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