Multitasking impairs ability to learn

Multitasking impairs ability to learn

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How Multitasking Affects Human Learning - Interview with UCLA Psycology Professor, Russel Poldrack

Using an MRI they monitored people's brain activity to see which areas of their brains were being used when they were only focused on the lesson v.s. when they were multitasking.  They found that when we focus on learning something, the area of the brain that is active is the hippocampus (where we store rich concious memories).  In contrast, when we multitask, the area of the brain that is active is the basal ganglia (where we store habits and more subconcious memories).  Their conclusion was that learning is severely impaired when you are trying to do multiple things at once. 

Personally, I feel that this is something that most people know already.  It's tough because it is so tempting to try and write a quick email while taking an online training course, or watch tv while studying for your upcoming certification exam (okay, maybe I'm a bad example. :).  One would think that with more information around, we'd be more knowledgeable. As we continue to be bombarded by information, which divides our attention, will the end result be that because we can never focus, we end up retaining a lot less?

My opinion is we're moving away from a 'storage' based society.  Gone are the days where you were smart because you 'knew everything'.  We have moved into the 'network' based society where you are smart if you know 'how to get to everything you need to know' using the tools and technology around you.  Last night, I went with a group of my friends to a trivia night at a local bar, after our final dodgeball finals (we lost), and felt very useless without my internet connection (I did have my smartphone but didn't want to cheat ;).  Sometimes it feels as though I put a ton of information in RAM but it never gets written to my HD.

I think this is an interesting topic because although we have entered this new information age, a lot of the techniques and tools that we employ in the classroom haven't changed very much.  Do we run the risk of increasing the gap between the real world and the classroom?  Our team is currently investigating ways to evolve our current products to keep ahead of the curve, but it's a big task!

Comments
  • Another great post. I just email this to my friend.

  • This is an interesting topic because although we have entered this new information age, a lot of the techniques and tools that we employ in the classroom haven't changed very much.

  • Sometimes it feels as though I put a ton of information in RAM but it never gets written to my HD.

  • It triggers here where are you going to focus your work or activity if you spent less time on every tasks then that would result into less productivity and poor output.

  • "We have moved into the 'network' based society where you are smart if you know 'how to get to everything you need to know'"

    Now that is certainly true.

    BTW thanks for the article, great to read.

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