Multi-Tasking In the Classroom

We piloted a wireless laptop program at our middle school this past year. We’re still evaluating the program to make adjustments for next year, but already teachers are complaining that students surf the Web during instruction. Some want to require that students keep their laptop covers closed during lectures, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of having the laptops for taking notes and so forth?

Do you remember listening to music or watching television when you did homework in middle and high school? Were you able to listen, watch, and work at the same time? We didn’t use the term multi-tasking, but that’s what we were doing.

When you give students (or adults for that matter) a computer, they’re going to use it! But this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not paying attention. Today’s youngsters are accustomed to sending Email, instant messaging their friends, and carrying on a conversation simultaneously. Rather than making laptops off-limits, teachers need to reconsider their lesson design. By coupling mini-lectures with hands-on supporting activities, teachers are able to continually redirect the students’ attention to the task at hand, even though they may occasionally ‘wander off’ to check out a Web site or check Email.

Submitted by: Susan Brooks-Young

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