After watching Frontline's Digital Nation, I had a few thoughts. For starters, I should confess that I was multitasking at the beginning of this video: texting, knitting, eating, and talking. However, the program quickly earned my complete attention, and there were a few points that I wanted to address. I'm choosing the topics that relate most immediately to children, as opposed to those that addressed the changing workplace for adults.
The bit that they did on multitasking I thought was particularly interesting. It didn't surprise me at all to see that people who tried to do many things at once were less than effective at those tasks. That old phrase "jack of all trades, master of none" has existed for a reason! It seems to be much more effective to do one thing, and do it well. Chances are that those things would get done faster, also. However, it also seems that this personal discipline and control to restrict oneself to one task is something that is difficult for today's emerging professionals to grasp. So really, the question for me, as a parent and educator, is how to appropriately integrate focus into this culture of distractedness, multitasking, and immediate gratification. As an aside, now I'm drinking coffee, watching the news, blogging, and wrangling a two-year-old.
I'm not sure if the natural progression of this multitasking culture led to the extensive gaming culture in South Korea, but I thought that it was sad and a bit foreboding to see what that situation has done to the youth of South Korea. I have known a number of students who have played online games and spent the majority of their time outside of school immersed in these worlds. I have also known some of those students who had a very difficult time managing themselves when they went off to college, and were unable to perform to their highest abilities. Although, that self-management is a difficult skill for many college students to achieve, regardless of gaming and online habits. Again, how do we help these students to manage themselves and their technology so that they realize that the technology is a tool to success, and not the indication of success itself?
With that thought in mind, I thought that the statements by the New York administrators that we needed to meet students where they were, indicating that the only way to engage students is through technology, is sadly pathetic and short-sighted. My initial reaction to those philosophies is that we are lowering expectations so that teachers and students can find successes, rather than insisting on balance. Please don't misunderstand me: I agree with the appropriate integration of technology into education. However, giving every middle-schooler a laptop and expecting them to focus in class is asinine. Moderation and responsibility has to be the key. I watched (and blogged about) a video earlier for this course that highlighted responsibility as a key topics for success in a Web 2.0 culture.
So, it would seem that modeling moderation and responsibility with technology is one way to help our children learn personal management. Beyond that, schools and parents have a daunting task ahead of them to teach young folks how to appropriately use tools for success and integrate technology effectively into their broadening horizons. I, certainly, don't have all the answers. But, I am eager to work towards a solution!