During ELI, Intellagirl showed a WoW screen filled with lots of information and proclaimed that this is what many of your students are used to–viewing multiple channels at once. This picture is from my computer during Barbara Sawhill’s talk at Faculty Academy. I have the Ustream page and Twitter up. There’s a chat going on in Ustream and there are comments being made in Twitter both from local attendees and from far-flung friends. In fact, a question came through the Ustream chat during the Q&A, which I think was a perfect example of how these multiple channels can enhance each other.
Even though I’m 40, to me this is normal as well. What’s different about this kind of multiple channel view as opposed to what one sees on Bloomberg or CNN is that it’s different channels pertaining to the same thing. Half the time on CNN, the crawl is about sports while the talking heads are discussing politics. I find that confusing sometimes. But I have been known to be tending to email and IM’ing at the same time.
I don’t always multitask like this and sometimes I do need to shut down Twitter and IM and focus on things, but I think too many people are dismissive of “the kids today” who do more than one thing at a time. It could be that they’re just paying attention to multiple channels related to the same task or topic, i.e. they could be chatting with a friend about a paper while writing and searching databases for more information. It think we need to help people figure out when the multiple channels make sense and when they might be distracting.