Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Multitasking and Youth Ministry

Multitasking is not new. However, technology allows us multiple avenues to engage (or indulge) in multitasking. Most of us do it to greater or lesser degrees: work in multiple browsers + do other tasks + check our gadgets. There are those who suggest that it is natural for digital natives, born into and growing up surrounded by technology. Certainly, they seem to engage in this accelerated multitasking with greater ease and in a way that conveys it is an extension of who they are. Research suggests, however, that regardless of age, there are downsides to multitasking. Mark McGuinness quotes a number of sources that deem it a myth and that also reframe it as "task switching." It has its place, but there is often a need for focus. More specifically, a Stanford University Study looking at technological multitasking showed that people who multitasked a lot, were less able to focus, switch gears, recall, and assess for relevancy. This research was conducted among college students, a younger age group. Gary Small also looks at the dangers of multitasking. In iBrain, he points out that, "studies show that too much multitasking can lead not only to increased stress and attention deficits but also to a decline in work efficiency" (Small 2008, 32). Thus, while multitasking may give us a sense of keeping up with the demands of life and offer some satisfaction, it has definite downsides. This raises questions for us in youTheology as we seek to develop faithful leaders for a diverse church and world. In general, it raises questions for all of us who work in youth ministry with high school students toward faith formation.

~~What place is there in our program for a recognition and use of the ability to switch from task and activity to task and activity? Should there be a place?
~~How do we plan in such a way that we enable our young people to focus so that they can practice the presence of the Holy?
~~How can we teach so that content important to our faith is recalled?

I will continue this discussion in next week's blog, but in the meantime, what do you think? What do you do?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

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