Plinius

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

PL 45/10: Cold spots for students

Filed under: Uncategorized — plinius @ 9:21 am

In a recent interview in the Chronicle of Higher Education Nicholas Carr says:

There’s a study called “The Laptop and the Lecture” that divided a class into two sets.

One-half of the students could use their laptops in a classroom while listening to a lecture. They were free to surf the Web. And the other half had to keep their laptops closed. And then there was a test of comprehension.

And the students who used their laptops scored significantly lower on the comprehension test for how well they could remember the content of the lecture.

An interesting twist was that students who visited sites relevant to the content of the lecture actually did even worse on the test than students who browsed unrelated sites.

Nope to laptops

The answer is obvious: prohibit laptops.

Even better: prohibit all use of the web during lectures. Collect all cell phones at the entrance.

If that does not work, equip the lecture halls with web noise generators (cold spots).  Then students will concentrate on what I have to say – as they did in the good old days.

If lecturing were good enough for Aristotle, it is good enough for me.

Note

The article Carr refers to was published in 2003. If I pay Springer thirty-four dollars, I can read the full text. I just love that instant access … ;-)

The interview has a long tail of comments – well worth reading.

Resources

APPENDIX

The multi-tasking paradox

Among knowledge workers, multi-tasking behaviour appears to be an inevitable consequence of the presence of increasingly easy access to information.

  • Despite the detrimental effect that multi-tasking has on specific task completion, the paradox is that this does not seem to have an effect on overall organizational productivity.
  • in an information economy, task completion by knowledge workers to a set deadline may be counterproductive to the interests of the organization as a whole.

This article describes certain strategies that can be used to minimize the harmful aspects of continuous task switching and to maximize the returns to experience that multi-tasking can bring to an organization.

Multi-tasking behaviour and its link to complexity theory may lead to a new understanding of organizations as highly fluid and variable entities that are impossible to design or maintain centrally and yet whose goals lead to the moment by moment creation of micro-organizational structures that accomplish tasks in a manner that engages the full resources of knowledge workers.

Steven H. Appelbaum, Adam Marchionni, Arturo Fernandez, (2008) “The multi-tasking paradox: perceptions, problems and strategies”, Management Decision, Vol. 46 Iss: 9, pp.1313 – 1325. Abstract.

Document Information:
Title: The multi-tasking paradox: perceptions, problems and strategies
Author(s): Steven H. Appelbaum, (John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada), Adam Marchionni, (John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada), Arturo Fernandez, (MedQualis Inc., Montreal, Canada)
Citation: Steven H. Appelbaum, Adam Marchionni, Arturo Fernandez, (2008) “The multi-tasking paradox: perceptions, problems and strategies”, Management Decision, Vol. 46 Iss: 9, pp.1313 – 1325
Keywords: Communication technologies, Organization structures, Task analysis
Article type: Conceptual paper
DOI: 10.1108/00251740810911966 (Permanent URL)
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Abstract: Purpose – The purpose of this article is to describe multi-tasking behaviour in the workplace; to link its cause to the increasing prevalence of low-cost information and communications technologies and to the changing organizational structures that have evolved to meet the demands and opportunities of these technologies.

Design/methodology/approach – This article is a presentation of the current literature on multi-tasking behaviour among knowledge workers with a selective bibliography addressing empirical research into the behavioural, managerial and technological aspects of this phenomenon. It then expands to comprehensive coverage of the literature on past and current thinking about task structuring, strategies for coping in a multi-tasking environment and the changing nature of work and organizations, which fuels the need to multi-task in response to these changes.

Findings – Among knowledge workers, multi-tasking behaviour appears to be an inevitable consequence of the presence of increasingly easy access to information. Despite the detrimental effect that multi-tasking has on specific task completion, the paradox is that this does not seem to have an effect on overall organizational productivity. For the USA at least, an average 4 per cent growth rate over the past several years of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries shows that productivity has increased in tandem with an increase in multi-tasking behaviour and information technologies.

Practical implications – Multi-tasking behaviour needs to be understood in the context of its manifestation as a variable that is at least partially dependent on the existence of relatively “cheap” information. In essence, in an information economy, task completion by knowledge workers to a set deadline may be counterproductive to the interests of the organization as a whole. This article describes certain strategies that can be used to minimize the harmful aspects of continuous task switching and to maximize the returns to experience that multi-tasking can bring to an organization.

Originality/value – Multi-tasking behaviour and its link to complexity theory may lead to a new understanding of organizations as highly fluid and variable entities that are impossible to design or maintain centrally and yet whose goals lead to the moment by moment creation of micro-organizational structures that accomplish tasks in a manner that engages the full resources of knowledge workers.

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