We’ve known for some time that multi-tasking is bad for the quality of cognitive work, and is especially punishing of the kind of cognitive work we ask of college students.
This effect takes place over more than one time frame — even when multi-tasking doesn’t significantly degrade immediate performance, it can have negative long-term effects on “declarative memory”, the kind of focused recall that lets people characterize and use what they learned from earlier studying. (Multi-tasking thus makes the famous “learned it the day before the test, forgot it the day after” effect even more pernicious.)
People often start multi-tasking because they believe it will help them get more done. Those gains never materialize; instead, efficiency is degraded. However, it provides emotional gratification as a side-effect. (Multi-tasking moves the pleasure of procrastination inside the period of work.) This side-effect is enough to keep people committed to multi-tasking despite worsening the very thing they set out to improve.
On top of this, multi-tasking doesn’t even exercise task-switching as a skill. A study from Stanford reports that heavy multi-taskers are worse at choosing which task to focus on. (“They are suckers for irrelevancy”, as Cliff Nass, one of the researchers put it.) Multi-taskers often think they are like gym rats, bulking up their ability to juggle tasks, when in fact they are like alcoholics, degrading their abilities through over-consumption.
History, Winston Churchill famously said, is written by the victors. Don McLeroy no doubt agrees.
McLeroy is a dentist from Bryan, Texas, a self-described Christian fundamentalist, and an outgoing member of state school board of education (SBOE). Over the past year, McLeroy and his allies formed a powerful bloc on the 15-member elected board and pushed through controversial revisions to the statewide social studies curriculum.
“Sometimes it boggles my mind the kind of power we have,” McLeroy recently boasted.
To many Texans, however, what’s more mind-boggling are some of the revisions. Critics charge that they promote Christian fundamentalism, boost conservative political figures, and force-feed American “exceptionalism,” while downplaying the historical contributions of minorities.
Compiling the Latin dictionary has also given glimpses of life in the medieval era.
In establishing the Latin word for "muzzle", there was a record from 1252 showing that a muzzle had to be made for a polar bear, kept in the Tower of London, which had to be restrained when it was brought to fish in the river Thames.
The word for chimney - "caminus" - was sourced from a description of an earthquake which hit England in the 1340s which toppled chimneys.
There were also strange tales from coroner's courts, such as an account of a cat chasing a mouse down a well and then a woman drowning when she tried to rescue the cat.
Ms. Mouly started Toon Books, which publishes comics for children as young as 3, in 2008. Its books are listed on several prominent recommended reading lists (including the American Library Association’s) and are included in state and national school programs and initiatives, which is where the teachers who take them into the classrooms often hear about them in the first place. The books are taught across the country, with the help of 200-page illustrated lesson plans that cover topics from literary interpretation and story arcs to “comics as a genre.” Their use in classrooms made immediate sense, given their similarities to the picture books that children that age were already reading in school.
With Toon Graphics, Ms. Mouly said she hoped to extend this learning process to older children. Though the books also have accompanying lesson plans and follow national Common Core standards, the battle for acceptance, Ms. Mouly admits, may be uphill. Plenty of fourth and fifth graders love comics, of course, but that’s also the time when many teachers and parents are trying to wean children off them.
“To develop as readers, kids need a lot of experience processing words,” said Timothy Shanahan, distinguished professor emeritus of urban education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “If a youngster spends an hour reading a comic and an hour reading a book, they’re probably processing a lot more words when they’re reading a book. It’s not that comics are bad, it’s what they might replace.”
With so many different forms of media competing for the attention of children, however, teachers and librarians are increasingly eager to embrace comics in the schools.