Multitask This!

Kid these days…

They can text rings around us adults, figure out the most complex of technical devices, and multitask so fast that keyboards are in danger of spontaneous combustion from all the furious clicking of keys, right?

Wrong! I have yet to see any students exhibit on a mass scale the skills and innate abilities that those labeled “digital natives” are supposed to have (note, I never used the term digital native, I thought it was bogus from the start). The truth of the matter is, some students are more apt to be able to figure out complicated software, dart in and out of multiple windows, but no more so than the number of students who excel at football, complex differentials, or playing the guitar. I’m not saying that students can’t adapt, but rather the myths of multi-tasking (aka acquired inattention) need to be laid to rest, and replaced with actual shortcomings of attempting to multi-task.

Which leads me to the following audio snippet I captured earlier this evening at my piano (warning, I’m not that great at piano). To me, the ability to multi-task doesn’t impress unless someone is attempting to accomplish two rather difficult cognitive tasks (completely dependent on the individual’s talents that is). For example, I have a terribly difficult time trying to play the piano and talk at the same time. Thus, I present to you, my attempt to “Multitask This!”

Imagine how much fun it would be to showcase your shortcomings the first day of school by sharing a small piece of audio like this? Let your students know up front that there are some things even teachers have a hard time accomplishing (and maybe get a few laughs out of it). A bit more seriously though, the idea of multi-tasking is that it’s either HARD to accomplish a few tasks well, or it’s EASY to do a pretty crappy job at a lot of tasks. Would you rather have your students struggling to accomplish something monumental, like creating effective and moving persuasive video essays of their written work? Or would you rather keep them busy with an endless litany of mindless “edu-games” that mostly just serve as distractions?

If you’re interested in creating your own “Multitask This!” audio snippet, I’d love to hear the results. Just capture some audio (unedited of course) of you trying to accomplish two tasks that seem rather basic, perhaps even elementary when completed in isolation, yet present quite a challenge for you when combined.


  1. Vary interesting post.
    Multitasking means we can do more then one work at a time.For example look to laptop console and typing.Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

  2. I agree with you on showing students some humility at the beginning of the school year. It helps when they know that you realize you aren’t perfect! With multi-tasking, I do think that it can be extremely difficult to successfully complete a few tasks well if there isn’t some type of organization to follow. I’ve seen my students become overwhelmed when they have a list of things to finish within a set time. However, (successful) multi-tasking is a necessary life skill, and I believe that it is important for students to learn how to prioritize and productively work on different tasks. This makes me think of the quote “a jack-of-all-trades is a master at nothing”, but we’ve all had to multi-task at some point. That being said, I would rather my students struggle to complete something monumental. More difficult, but a better pay-off in the end.

    1. Love the challenge you toss out at the end of hoping for students to struggle at something monumental, Jessica! When it comes to multi-tasking, I think it goes beyond the idea of just trying to accomplish something, but borders on the idea that “hey, look kids, when you try to take on a lot at once, and fracture yourself, results generally go down hill…unless you’ve practiced, a lot”. In a way a lot of teachers ignore that, and will get frustrated when students aren’t “performing” up to standards after just a few days of tackling new big problems. Glad that you focus on priorities and getting students to a place where they feel comfortable with a bit of struggle.

  3. Very interesting idea for an audio assignment I could never think up of an audio to submit of my own. Also if it makes you feel better you’re playing circles around me even with such a simple tune.

    1. Thanks for the boost to my confidence when it comes to piano skills, Tyler! This was a tough assignment to put together, and really relies heavily on the individual’s spoken story skills. I find those don’t get as much love in the larger realm of ds106 when compared to visual and video assignments.

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