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On Multi-Tasking and Uni-Tasking
by By Dina Wyshogrod


Last week, the 10 year old son of friends was walking along Emek Refaim, talking excitedly to his mother on his cell phone. Engrossed in the conversation, he stepped off the curb.

What she heard next was: a screeeeechh. A bang. And then - silence.

She had no idea where he was. Or how he was. Was he alive?

Can you imagine this? Do you even want to?

He survived. A broken arm, a badly scratched up face, but he's OK.

An angel must have been watching over him.

Maybe angels should be standard issue along with our cell phones. But until that's the case, we've got to be our own angels.

Here are the statistics:

In 2008, more than 1,000 pedestrians visited emergency rooms in the USA because they got distracted and tripped, fell, or ran into something while using a cell phone to talk or text.

That was twice as many as in 2007, which was twice as many in 2006.

What's even more alarming are the 2003 findings of Harvard scientists that motorists talking on cell phones caused 2,600 fatal accidents and 570,000 non-fatal accidents a year. And that's before current plans by the major auto companies to start installing internet screens on our dashboards.

Consider this: Drivers using cell phones take on average three times as long as drunk drivers to brake.

And this: A 20 year old who drives while talking on the cell phone has the same reaction time as a 70 year old non-cell phone user.

If you think you can do two things at a time, think again.

You can't.

But there should be more to this discussion than just the CONS of multi-tasking.

What about the PROS of uni-tasking, of doing one thing at a time.
It almost sounds prehistoric, doesn't it? How quaint.

But consider this: what might you notice if you were walking through your neighborhood, your cell phone on 'off', and all your senses on 'on'? Might you smell the sharpness of the new rain? Or catch a glimpse of a hummingbird hovering amid the blossoms? Maybe you'd spy the sudden sunbeam piercing that cloud. Or find yourself laughing at the delighted chirp of a toddler's giggle.

And what might you notice about yourself if you were to focus on one thing at a time? Even with a thousand things on your to-do list, what if you really focused on what you are doing right now? What might that be like? How might that feel?

What if doing one thing a time - at least some of the time - not only saved your life, but made it just a tiny bit richer?

Resources from the Editors
Here are some interesting places on the net where you can find information about cellphone use for your EFL classes that is bound to get your students' attention!

Driven to Distraction, NY Times - Forget Gum. Walking and Using Phone Is Risky
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/17/technology/17distracted.html Cellphone Use can be Hazardous to Pedestrians, AARP Bulletin Today http://bulletin.aarp.org/states/co/2010/3/articles/cellphone_use_can_be_hazardous_pedestrians.html

A 14 year old student uses "Ask A Scientist" for statistics to convince his mother not to use the cellphone while driving.
http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/gen01/gen01264.htm

The Journal, article about a game that teaches students responsible cellphone use
http://thejournal.com/Articles/2009/05/01/Technology--Online--Industry--Partnerships.aspx

Drivers and Legislators Dismiss Cellphone Risks, NY Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/technology/19distracted.html

The Autumn of the Multi-Taskers, The Atlantic,
http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200711/multitasking
How multi-tasking is dumbing us down.

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