Distraction Kills

by Robert Pondiscio
July 25th, 2008

David Meyer, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan believes we are distracting ourselves to death.  A column in the Times of London describes Meyer and his work:

In 1995 his son was killed by a distracted driver who ran a red light. Meyer’s speciality was attention: how we focus on one thing rather than another. Attention is the golden key to the mystery of human consciousness; it might one day tell us how we make the world in our heads. Attention comes naturally to us; attending to what matters is how we survive and define ourselves. The opposite of attention is distraction, an unnatural condition and one that, as Meyer discovered in 1995, kills. Now he is convinced that chronic, long-term distraction is as dangerous as cigarette smoking. In particular, there is the great myth of multitasking. No human being, he says, can effectively write an e-mail and speak on the telephone. Both activities use language and the language channel in the brain can’t cope. Multitaskers fool themselves by rapidly switching attention and, as a result, their output deteriorates.

Meyer says there is evidence that people in chronically distracted jobs are, in early middle age, appearing with the same symptoms of burn-out as air traffic controllers. They might have stress-related diseases, even irreversible brain damage. But the damage is not caused by overwork, it’s caused by multiple distracted work.

Reading this I started to wonder:  Could the demand to deliver differentiated instuction be part of why teachers burn out so quickly?  Are teachers who rely more heavily on whole class instruction more productive?

Viva No Difference!

by Robert Pondiscio
July 25th, 2008

Sorry, Larry Summers.  An analysis of standardized test scores from more than 7 million students in grades 2 through 11 finds no difference in math scores for girls and boys.  Everybody is on this one, including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, TIME, lots more.

Is Less More?

by Robert Pondiscio
July 25th, 2008

About 100 schools in as many as 16 states have already moved to a four-day school week, many to save money on transportation, heating and cooling, Reuters reports. 

Webster County School District in Kentucky switched to a four-day week four years ago during a budget crisis, choosing to drop school days rather than cut staff and programs.  Not only did Webster save money, but attendance and student performance went up.  ”If we were to go back to a five-day week, the school board and I would be run out of town,” says superintendent James Kemp.