Wednesday, June 02, 2010
If you are a child of mine, please read this. And I mean "please" in the pro forma imperative sense, not in the request sense.
For anyone who is interested, I wrote a post awhile back on some of the known science behind why 'multitasking' is detrimental, and how we can apply this knowledge to education (which is what I know the most about).
Biotunes' article on the importance of moving knowledge from short-term to long-term memory is the only problem I am convinced needs addressing. I am not at school, I am at a job, supposedly producing actual work. I don't need to put my acute emergency caseload into long-term memory, I need to solve a variety of problems in a brief time. While I try to block out focused times with few or no interruptions for certain activities, much of my day comes at me in its own time. Even with the time and mental energy required to switch from one set to another, it is simply more efficient for me to do what I can on each case as it pops up: a minute here, five minutes there, 20 minutes there again. Waiting until I had all the pieces, and then starting in on the task would slow patient care dramatically. Even with the lost switching time, an opportunistic approach is better.
The advent of the internet into my life has produced mixed changes in focus. I do surf when I read, picking up snippets, and it is now hard to do sustained book-reading. But I also now write, whether to comment or to post, in bursts of 10-100 minutes, a focus I always had difficulty with before. I now prefer to think - both hard thinking and daydreaming - when I drive, instead of listening to music or the radio. On one five-hour drive to Bangor, I worked out a long-term strategy for what to do with our fourth son (second Romanian), who was unraveling on several fronts. On the way back, I rewrote my sermon for the next day.
Any group of people beyond four in sustained conversation now overstimulates me and requires an escape far more than the computer does. Group conversation has always been abrupt multitasking, even though it is not as complete switch as a change of activity would be.
The Al Jacobs approach is just foolish. I am not interested in considering deeply how my pad thai tastes, and this series of artificial exercises he sets himself is not not known to create any general improvement in focus. People who have wives and children have responsibilities to them, not to parlor games of self-improvement.
Block scheduling is indeed superior in many ways, and one of my sons considered Colorado College for that reason, even though he liked little else about it.