I’m disturbed by a specific moment in Digital Nation, an excellently produced program on Frontline. Disturbed is the polite, NPR word for my feeling. Shades of anger aside, many of the educators interviewed at the “pro-technology” public school in the United States should be introduced to the nuns from my father’s Cuban elementary school. I wonder what the Sisters would say about multi-tasking in their classrooms. Not only are many of the teachers interviewed defeatist about the multi-tasking (read: undisciplined) behaviors, one of them says teaching multi-tasking is important for the students’ future jobs. (See 34:48 in Teaching with Technology) Maybe I’ll need to do the PTA circuit (my Lisa Simpson moment!), but such notions about teaching are not acceptable. The fact that this educator says this with pride on a nationally broadcast television series is disgraceful. What happened to teaching students how to write or multiply or feel awkward in the locker room (oh, P.E.)? To be fair, this same teacher had some cool, likely effective methods for using tech in the classroom, but then she busts out with the really unfortunate multi-tasking quote.
Our highly caffeinated educator is equating the “skill” of multi-tasking as something on the level of writing. I have two issues with this: 1. Multi-tasking does not count as an employment skill (unless wearing shoes does, too) 2. Multi-tasking masquerades as productivity. Let’s put aside the question of college preparation because this teacher likely wears neoliberal undies. Let’s meet her in the break room on her turf. I’ve been in the information workforce for over a decade. (I’m taking a break now for grad school, but more on that in a future post.) I worked for an excellent company where I received, on average, 100 emails a day. At first, I drowned in that sea of mail, but I learned to cope; oddly enough I had no educator to thank for this prized ability of writing an important document one minute, and dealing with interruptions the next. Maybe my “ramp up” time would have decreased if I had “Spark Noted” The Great Gatsby and mastered the art of distraction thinking, a.k.a cheating on ideas?
Most companies are not in the business of producing email, text messages, instant chats, You Tube videos, and status updates. Aside from priority communication needs, multi-tasking does not lead to a superior product or service. I am a good example of this. In my last performance review, the only constructive criticism I received was to increase my response time on emails (valid). The irony, of course, is that my superior performance was achieved, in part, by NOT MULTI-TASKING. I blocked out time on my calendar for email, and email only. I “hid” on instant messenger. In short, I focused; and perhaps we could give some of that credit to the educators who dared to lecture me using only their knowledge and their voices. Horrors!
Yes, I could have used my Outlook rules to more efficient ends. Yes, my inbox loomed like a schoolyard bully to more traditionally ordered friends (3k messages—run away!). Yes, I sometimes missed important pieces of communication, but more often than not, I missed what my girlfriend had for lunch, twenty things about you or the cat playing on the keyboard. Instead, to borrow a tag line from my favorite software system, I got “better results, faster.” No thanks to the maverick educator over at middle school I.S. 33-whats it number; sorry, I was distracted by your bra color.
*Disclaimers: I did learn to enjoy the soothing sound of Tweet Deck while I worked, but I didn’t look at it when I was writing something important; my education, thank the pre-LOL Cat Bible, gave me the sense to determine relative importance and timeliness.
Also, my mother is a professor. Her brothers called her Dragon Lady. Scratch the nuns, let’s send Mrs. Distraction to Mom. Mwahahahaha!