The New “Marshmallow Test”

[E]vidence from psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience suggests that when students multitask while doing schoolwork, their learning is far spottier and shallower than if the work had their full attention. They understand and remember less, and they have greater difficulty transferring their learning to new contexts. So detrimental is this practice that some researchers are proposing that a new prerequisite for academic and even professional success—the new marshmallow test of self-discipline—is the ability to resist a blinking inbox or a buzzing phone. ~Annie Murphy Paul

Annie Murphy Paul writes some great, thought-provoking blog posts on the subject of learning, education, and technology.

Two things worth reading: an excellent article on the myths about multi-tasking – http://tinyurl.com/c3h37mv and a follow up blog post – http://tinyurl.com/cye5n7y

This issue doesn’t just apply to students – I’ve noticed the trend happening with colleagues. Multi-tasking does NOT improve productivity, creativity, or teamwork. Meetings now mandate no phones, no buzzing iThings, no digital distractions. Sadly, for some, behaviours during meetings then begin to look suspiciously like withdrawal angst.

2 thoughts on “The New “Marshmallow Test”

  1. We’re losing it. If a task is set outside of the classroom, it is invariably completed concurrent with external inputs from TV, phone, gaming, whatever. In consequence, it is often done poorly. I was trying to imagine the other day how a Victorian school where twenty lines of Virgil had to be translated and memorised as a prep for the next class would have dealt with the problem. It seems to me as if the technological mare has run away with the educational cart, thus nobody really understands what they should be doing any more.

    1. The fragmented way that learning is happening is showing up in the results of the memory assessments we do. I’ve noticed that the 15 – 24 year old clients have exceptional working memories – prodigious, in fact. The amount of information they can take in, process, manipulate, and express immediately, is frankly, incredible. But wait 15 minutes (Delayed Recall) and their performance quite simply sucks. They cannot recall the information coherently or holistically, and the scores on this assessment are going down. If every exam was given at the end of the class where the information was first presented, nearly every student would appear brilliant. But, of course, this is not done.

      The “…technological mare has run away with the educational cart…” ~ how apt.

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