As for "multitasking," David Weinberger sums it up quite well in "The Cluetrain Manifesto:"
"...Humans can't multitask - we can't pay attention to two things simultaneously.
You can multitask? Fine. Then read a book and write one at the same time. No, multitasking is really just rapid attention-switching. And that'd be a useful skill, except it takes us a second or two to engage in the new situation we've graced with our focus. So, the sum total of attention is actually decreased as we multitask. Slicing your attention is less like slicing potatoes than like slicing plums: you always lose some of the juice." (p. 50)
As to the multitasker vs. unitasker, perhaps we are using our own filter.
I understand that multitasking is just quick task switching, and that many children do it all the time, but perhaps it is they who are adapting to the way the world is moving quickly and it is we who are remembering, and preferring, when there was less need to multitask, when people stayed at the same jobs for decades (and they weren't teachers) so didn't need to learn entirely new skills. Seymour Papert says school should be hard and fun, challenging and engaging. Are we providing this to our students or are we still expecting them to listen and be quiet for us? Here's a quote:
- "...I was looking about the school supply stores ... trying to find
desks and chairs... We had a great deal of difficulty in finding what we needed, and finally one dealer ... made this remark, 'I am afraid we [do not have] what you want. You want something at which the children may work; these are all for listening."
(Dewey, J., 1902, The School and Society and The Child and the Curriculum, the University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, page 31.)
1902. Are we still expecting children to listen and pay attention or are we ready to get them working, and if so, that may mean allowing them to approach work in ways that work for them. and aren't ways that necessarily work for us.
Check out Ian Jukes' blog entry on this topic.