As a marketing company, The Walsh Group was asked to research the feasibility of creating a “Social Media Department” at a local college. During this research, we came upon a documentary that focused on the frustrations of the staff and the students at MIT. I have to admit, I cannot remember the name the documentary, just the following concept.

I’ll try to recreate the scene: A traditional tiered lecture hall; the camera is at the back, panning over the student’s shoulders and down onto the professor. He is trying desperately to hold their attention. Almost every student has a laptop open either typing away on Facebook, texting away on their phone or listening to iTunes.

Next comes the interviews: The professor states his frustration at trying to engage with these students. He feels the exchange of ideas, the argument of intellectual concepts, even just an interaction among the students is gone. The despair he feels regarding the inability of these students to communicate with each other is astounding.

Now the student’s point of view: One young woman clearly states. “Our professors have to realize that we can multi-task! That is how we do things now. They need to change and engage us on our level.”

So the challenge is on. MIT took the TOP students, I mean the A students; best-of-the-best and put them to the test. They were asked, “How do you multi-task?” Typically while doing their assignments (homework), they were texting their friends (phone, Facebook or both), listening to music, and even playing an online game.

Next MIT researchers took away one device (the student’s choice) and substituted another simple game-like device. On this device a letter or single-digit number would appear on the screen. The student needed to identify the letter as a vowel or consonant, the number as odd or even. Simple right? The “average” score for these multi-tasking MIT, best-of-the-best, students was a C. I was shocked. So much for that theory. Yes, they can multi-task, but is it effective or efficient? Really?

Now I think of a lower than average person trying to multi-task, lets say, driving and texting! Be scared….be really scared….they are out there and they all think like the MIT student!

 

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