In a post titled “Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away…“, Clay Shirky writes:
I’ve noticed that when I do have a specific reason to ask everyone to set aside their devices (‘Lids down’, in the parlance of my department), it’s as if someone has let fresh air into the room. The conversation brightens, and more recently, there is a sense of relief from many of the students…
Is it possible to attend a lecture ànd read a Twitter feed or mails in your inbox at the same time? Not really, it turns out:
…multi-tasking doesn’t even exercise task-switching as a skill. A study from Stanford reports that heavy multi-taskers are worse at choosing which task to focus on. (“They are suckers for irrelevancy”, as Cliff Nass, one of the researchers put it.) Multi-taskers often think they are like gym rats, bulking up their ability to juggle tasks, when in fact they are like alcoholics, degrading their abilities through over-consumption.
And that’s just plain multi-tasking.
Laptops, tablets and phones — the devices on which the struggle between focus and distraction is played out daily — are making the problem progressively worse…
The form and content of a Facebook update may be almost irresistible, but when combined with a visual alert in your immediate peripheral vision, it is—really, actually, biologically—impossible to resist.
One of the conclusions, then, is not just about the classroom, but also about society and computers :
Computers are not inherent sources of distraction — they can in fact be powerful engines of focus — but latter-day versions have been designed to be, because attention is the substance which makes the whole consumer internet go.
“Attention is the substance which makes the whole consumer internet go” – and that means that by allowing our children to chat on social media and share pictures the whole day long, we’re allowing them to become consumers, and not much more. I wish my children would read Clay Shirkey’s post, but they’re too busy and too puberal to take good advice. What will educators do with these data?