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My daughter, who is away at university, texted me from her iPhone to my old iPhone. Her majors are in English and Creative Writing, so she has plenty of reading and writing to do. Today, she announced that she was in a coffee shop with her boyfriend and was “getting work done.” It flies in the face of what I was told and grew up doing, is against the research into how people can best learn. I know, because I studied education, training and learning to the level of a Masters of Education. Yet, this is how young people ‘get work done.’ The more they have going on, the better, or so it seems.
A few months ago, I caught an interview with a few young folk and they were asked how they do their homework and studies. The interviewer began with asking how many do only their homework. No hands went up. Next, they were asked if they do two things at once. Still no hands. He continued with three and I think I saw someone hesitantly put their hand part way up. I think most claimed they did about five things at once, including their studies.
So, the interviewer decided to find out if this is common and if there is any proof that this sort of practice resulted in lower grades in school. Sure enough, they managed to find a researcher who stated that the research is showing that grades are not impacted when students do more than one thing at a time when studying.
I have a couple of concerns. I am still not convinced, nevertheless, even if it should prove out over time, what does this say about where society is heading? Certainly, there are messages, such as advertizing, that are designed and meant to be consumed in an instant. We can see how much faster advertizing is presented compared with a decade or two ago. Particularly, advertizing aimed at young people. And the culture, for example the music of young people, is presented rapidly. It is almost as if, it is not the message itself that is important, it is the overall impression it leaves that matters.
My conclusion then is that the message must be superficial, since there is no time to really take-in the entire message. It is there and gone before one can even think about it. Therein lies a huge problem. Learning and understanding and finally wisdom come from critical thinking. It’s not just taking the time to think about and think through information, but, to also think about what you think about it and to critically examine the information, the message, what is behind the message and how it affects you the consumer of the information.
Let me put forward that intelligence and wisdom do not come from the quantity of information, but, from the quality and depth of thought that arises from it. Yes, there are very ‘smart’ people these days, doing amazing things. Yet, is seems as if we as humans, know so much about many things, and understand so little, particularly, who we are.
What if we, humankind, are on the verge of a massive paradigm shift that takes us away from a deep connection through critical thought and dialog with the information we create. Perhaps, our brain might catch up one day, or more likely, since we rely more each day on technology, that we may develop computers that might sift and organize our information into capsules that synthesize what we need to know. A machine that tells us what we need to know. It sounds sinister in some ways. What if we simply invent ourselves into a lifestyle that has all our needs met through various technologies and we simply have to enjoy life. This is the myth I grew up with, as western societies passed the mid-point of the twentieth century.
It was a myth in that, as the twentieth century was entering its final couple of decades, we seemed to be working harder to pay for the technologies that we had come to rely on and we found we were generating more information daily than we could ever consume. It has turned out that we can only pick small snippets here and there. Perhaps, it is these small pickings are what will make us individuals, or who we are. Like careening down a track on a super fast train, we try to look out of all the windows to see the scenery. In a matter of minutes, we pass through a section of countryside and claim that we have seen the country, yet, we have only seen snippets along a track that, in no way, passes through the entire country. Who is to say we have or have not seen enough?
I have been practicing. This has been written while watching TV. As a movie plays on the TV, I write and look up every now and then and I listen as I go. Well, I do manage, as you can read, to get something written, however, I don’t feel that I am really thinking deeply as I construct each sentence. My writing, may be shallow compared to what I might write if I were in a quiet room and focusing.
People claim that they can multitask and still do each task well. I am not convinced, but as I said, I am trying. I’m not up to doing five things at once and I don’t even think I will get there or want to. I have managed, though, to get this done.
What do you think? Do you multitask? How do you get work done?