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I Can Multitask, Why Can’t You

My first challenge with the idea of increased distractions in a learning environment, is it the participants responsibility to manage distractions, or is it the facilitator to regulate their environment.

The value of no distractions is focused attention. But, what’s the value of attention? Attention has been defined as the most valuable resource for content evaluation. The attention economy develops due to the mass availability of information and therefore the devaluation of content. In this environment Advertising becomes the dominant exchange of attention into lucrative value. Advertising is the crux of our distraction. But by now we all have ad block, right? The last time I watched local TV I was appalled by the length of ads spliced between shows. That’s distracting, it’s disruptive, and my experience is now ruined. I’m actively avoiding these disruptions to enjoy uninterrupted content. Even when on another device, I’m more likely participating it a sequential screening practice (90%), using multiple devices to accomplish the same task, than simultaneous usage.

So why can’t we retain our focus in class? What becomes a disruption in the exchange between a lecturer and their students. Sanaa et al. () results display negative implications for multitask use in a learning environment, for both multitaskers and peers surrounding them. My main query is, are there ways to multitask and not to multitask? The study setup participants with randomly assigned tasks to complete unrelated to the lecture to mimic multitasking. This already makes me concerned – I multitask, or become distracted for my own reasons, not because I’m instructed to. So, what results might they come to if they asked the participants that believed they knew how to multitask to take up that role? We all have different learning styles, some might be able to multitask. My other query is, how does the learning environment determine the likelihood for peers to be distracted? The study’s environment is small and can only fit 20 people. I haven’t been in that small a learning environment ever in University, accustomed to auditoriums available to fit 200+ people. I have been distracted by other laptop screens, but not frequently.

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