We cannot solve our current problems by engaging in the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. — Albert Einstein
Life in the twenty-first century is complex for all of us. For our students who are immersed in a 24-hour-a-day multimedia environment, balancing the dizzying number of areas vying for their attention can seem overwhelming. Requirements for academics are often at odds with social pressures, and both can be at the mercy of compelling forms of technologically driven entertainment. Clearly, as educators we face problems whose solutions will require innovative thinking involving all stakeholders. Consider, for a moment, the following statistics about our technology-driven world:
- Our interaction with media is fast-paced. Wikipedia, for example, is now the number one source for basic information (Rainie 2007).
- Google is the top choice worldwide for accessing news (Schonfeld 2009).
- Jon Stewart of The Daily Show is the most trusted source for news on television (Kaktuani 2008).
- According to measures compiled in September 2009 and reported by the Radicati Group, Inc. (Storage Newsletter, May 8, 2009), 247 billion e-mail messages are sent every day throughout the world and 81% of these are spam.
- Communication has progressed from live phone conversations to voice mail to e-mail to text-messaging. Further, all of these forms co-exist within an environment of Twitter, Skype, and Ning.
What then does contemporary research—especially neuroscience—tell us about how educators can help our electronically multitasking students succeed in education today? In particular, what can we do to help them develop “executive function skills” needed for a change-dominated, technology-driven, globally interdependent world? These skills include:
- goal-directed behavior;
- organizational abilities;
- time-management competencies; and
- strategic, purposeful, analytical and critical thinking.
An emerging body of neuroscience research suggests that providing students with specific, effective, and systematic instruction in executive function skills—with an emphasis on planning, time management, and strategic thinking—is critical to their success in a multitasking twenty-first century world.