Free Food Anyone?
A question raised from this week’s reading was whether our constant connection to the internet has caused distraction in our lives, particularly in the classroom and during times when we learn. Evidence [1,2,3] has also pointed to the inability of the human brain to multitask, but our connection to online devices has often forced us to switch between tasks when instead we should be concentrating. What surprised me, however, was that none of the readings thought to mention the distractions inherent in the American higher education system. I’m thinking about all the campus events – the football lottery, the guest speaker, the free food in the office upstairs. Is it really a wonder that students are distracted when our inboxes experience constant influx and we feel obliged to be updated in case of missed opportunity?
I used the word “obliged” because students now are almost expected to venture away from the books and be involved in different facets of university life. Employers like to see students doing things other than school work. Valuable skills can certainly be gained, and it is worthwhile to dive into one’s passion. But the time devoted means keeping up with the relevant opportunities and communication, which now seem to occur almost exclusively online.
With so much going on, time management seems increasingly important. Perhaps this is a skill that we need to talk about. Concentration is one part of it, as it helps us maximize the use of our time. I will try not to multitask anymore, after having that myth debunked. The other part is prioritization, and perhaps this is where we could be smarter about how we use the internet. Could we be more selective of the notifications that pop up on our devices? Could programs be more intuitively designed so that we could have greater control over the information influx? Lastly, for obvious reasons, we also have to exercise discipline and simply refrain from wasting time when we need to get something done. Turn off the phone. The world won’t end from the short-term abstinence.
 Technology: Myth of Multitasking
 Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again
 Media multitaskers pay mental price, Stanford study shows
November 14, 2017 @ 11:41 am
I like the question about could we be more mindful of which notifications we allow to pop up on our devices. I think social media is addicting, and sometimes it is hard to pull ourselves away from it. Once we manage to divert our eyes from our device having constant banners appear on the screen reminding us of what we are missing causes a sort of anxiety; we get withdrawls; we get twitchy trying to resist the notification that will lead us back to facebook. If that banner didn’t pop up, maybe the urge to get back on social media wouldn’t be so strong.
November 14, 2017 @ 2:23 pm
I agree that the fighting the urge to check notifications from social media is tough. I personally have either deleted most social media apps and/or have turned off notifications to break the cycle of “checking notifications > checking other things > time spent doing nothing”.
November 14, 2017 @ 2:42 pm
Zhanyu – I like your point about the other distractions that are specific to university settings that are outside the realm of technology and social media. There are a million and one things going on around us while we are often trying to do something tedious. As specified in Alex’s blog post, some of these tasks require many details and complete concentration, like performing a literature review. You almost have to barricade yourself into a dungeon in order to not be distracted when doing these types of things. Especially those of us that have FOMO (or the fear of missing out) often feel the need to do everythingggg so that we are not missing any of the fun. Being someone that frequently suffers from FOMO, I have to say that even when I say “no” to something, I’ll still think about it the whole time while the event is taking place. In your post, your words about how we should “exercise discipline” is what resonated with me most. I’m having to do that more and more especially while working from home sometimes. In relation to a few of the readings about the usage of laptops in the classroom, students must exercise discipline while in class. However, when referring to first year freshman, are they mature enough to make that decision themselves or should we as the instructors make it for them?
November 14, 2017 @ 3:04 pm
I share your concerns about having too much stimulus in our daily lives. It seems as though we have gotten so used to being bombarded with information these days, it’s giving the brain a hard time to process it all. We can either 1. limit our exposure to the information out there, or 2. filter out useless/irrelevant information through technology or personal experience.
Flipboard, for example, allows it’s users to create his or her own filter to limit what kind of news he or she reads. Perhaps just like Flipboard, we as humans should develop a similar mechanism in our lives that protect us from being exposed to too much stimulus.
November 14, 2017 @ 4:20 pm
Interesting post Grace – my high-school students used to call what you described in your post as FOMO i.e. Fear Of Missing Out and spent hours on social media just trying to catch up so that they knew everything of what was going on. The thing is that people don’t recognize that no matter how much we know, we still can’t know everything and more importantly we do actually control our devices but rather than exercising that privilege we give in to the temptation.
November 15, 2017 @ 1:58 pm
There is a style of design called minimalism. Minimalism tries to get rid of the functions/structures that are not essential to achieve the original purpose of an object. A lifestyle of minimalism is to throw away the stuff that we have not used for the past two months (with selection in mind). This may help to focus.
November 15, 2017 @ 4:40 pm
I’m glad you bring up the question of out-of-classroom events. As someone in student affairs, I of course value these learning opportunities. And I think they’re what make the university experience so valuable. However, I agree that keeping up with them can become overwhelming. Plus, most of the events are indeed managed online, and students are constantly checking Facebook and other outlets to make sure they haven’t missed anything. I don’t think the answer is to scale back such events, but as a student affairs administrator, I can help change the culture, help stop the pressure. Yes, experiencing such events is important to the college experience in my opinion. But if we’re attending simply to say that we did, we aren’t getting anything out of it, and we’re only adding distractions. Thanks for making me think about this!
November 15, 2017 @ 5:21 pm
I feel you’ve hit the hammer right on the head. I will argue that being engaged with the “outside world” is a great thing, but I feel that a line has to be drawn somewhere. Did we not have distractions before cell phones? We clearly did. Did some of us (including me) not phase out in our classrooms? I definitely did. But I would always constrain myself beyond a certain point. If I phased out in the last class, I would try to make it a point to listen to atleast half of the lecture before I allowed my attention to wander away. Maybe we are simply losing self control.