Tiger Woods, distractions, and laptops in the classroom

I was awe-struck during the recent U.S. Open Championship, where Tiger Woods won a nerve-wracking 19-hole playoff on the fifth day.  The whole time, Woods suffered from a torn ACL and a double-stress fracture in his leg.  Not only was he often in visible pain when taking a shot: he also had to walk a 7000+ yard course five times.  Yet he remained focused, tuning out everything, including his own considerable pain.

Around the same time, I read Maggie Jackson’s post at Nanci Alboher’s blog about Jackson’s new book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age.  Citing an expert in the field of “interruption science,” Jackson states that knowledge workers switch tasks on average every three minutes.  Once distracted, they take a half-hour to return to their original task.  Jackson notes that “[in] meetings where everyone is checking e-mail, opportunities for collective creative energy and critical thinking are lost.”

Substitute “meetings” with “law school” and one sees a pretty accurate image of what can happen in classrooms with laptops.  I would imagine that Jackson would agree that banning laptops would enhance the classroom experience.  As she states in her posting (albeit not on the topic of laptops):

We are born interrupt-driven -– that’s how humans stay tuned to their environment. But if we jump on every e-mail or ping, we’ll have trouble pursuing our long-term goals. To make inroads on the deep, messy work of life, we need to stay focused, bringing the spotlight of our attention back again and again to the work at hand.

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