The Myth of Multitasking

The Myth of Multitasking: Implications for teachers and their students

Phil Dye: Founder of Mindz Brainplay

In all of our teachers’ PD, student sessions or corporate experiences, we stress the irrefutable fact that multitasking, once the holy grail of workplace behavior, does NOT produce good results.

Our brain experiences electrical changes throughout the day depending on what we’re planning, thinking, doing, hearing or experiencing. The brain state needed for multitasking involves our brain cells (neurons) being high in electricity. This is called ‘Beta’ and it’s where we do many things at once yet do none of these exceptionally well. There is immense brain work involved in trying to juggle many things at once and it’s exceptionally tiring. Teachers know that all too well!

Unfortunately, multitasking does not allow the brain to move into ‘Theta’, the low-electrical brain state necessary for mistake-free work or learning. Learning and focus comes with no distraction or pressure. It comes with quiet or at least limited sound dynamics.

It doesn’t come naturally after 20 minutes of playground play, rugby training or jostling up the stairs to get to class. It will never exist with office PA announcements during class, the sound of jackhammers, students calling out or the distraction of mobile phones. Mobile phones on silent are even worse as students constantly check for possible messages. Mobile phones in a locker at least 10 metres from a smart watch is the only answer.

It also follows that a student’s brain state is often a reflection of the teacher’s brain state. If a teacher is relaxed, controlled and focused, a majority of the class will reflect that. If a teacher is pressured, distracted and stressed, the class will usually be the same – an impossible state for student learning and a terrible state for teaching job satisfaction.

Understanding the learning brain not only equips teachers with a toolbox for creating the best learning zone in students, it equips them with knowledge about their own brain state. Not covered in any teacher training course, it’s vital knowledge for today’s teacher.

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