MEET THE RESEARCHER
Dr. Lin Lin,
University of North Texas
Can multitasking improve your task performance? Visitors at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History have been exploring this topic with Dr. Lin Lin, Associate Professor of Learning Technologies at the University of North Texas, as she conducts her research in the museum’s Research and Learning Center.
Lin, who received her EdD from Columbia University, became interested in multitasking as she observed students using technology. “As soon as people started to work with technologies, they started to try to do several things at the same time…open their Internet browser, Word documents, e-mail, etc. Most students report that they watch TV or listen to music while doing homework. People cannot resist the temptation to call or text while driving.” Lin points out that some of these dual task or task switching activities may be benign or helpful, while others can be counter-productive or life-threatening. She hopes not only to better understand the phenomenon in different contexts, but also to find solutions to help people learn better and be more productive with technologies.
Lin’s earlier studies, published in PNAS and other journals, have highlighted the need to define the specific multitasking context. Task switching is different from dual tasking; background multitasking is different from dual multitasking. “Different activities require different levels of attention, cognitive load, and expertise,” says Lin. “It may be more important to tell people when and how, rather than if, they can multitask.” Incorporating multiple research methodologies is necessary to enhance ecological validity and help solve real life problems.
Lin has found many benefits to conducting research in the RLC. The museum environment helps her think of different studies and rethink ways to conduct studies. She is learning to communicate with people of different backgrounds and ages, and she better understands the importance of sharing her findings. After several months of working in the museum, she sees many ways to increase the potentials and overcome the challenges. “I see active research as a core part of a museum and an important link between the museum, the researchers, and the public,” she says.
What advice does Lin have for researchers who hope to conduct a study in the RLC? “Start with a sincere interest in helping and communicating with the public, rather than just thinking of the experience as a chance to collect data,” she says. “And be sure the study you conduct is communicative, informative and interactive.”
Dr. Cornelia Caragea
University of North Texas
Dr. Cornelia Caragea is an assistant professor at the University of North Texas. Her appointment marks one of the University’s unique approaches to faculty hires: she is part of the interdisciplinary Knowledge Discovery from Digital Information (KDDI) research cluster, with a dual appointment in Computer Science and Engineering and Library and Information Sciences. She directs the Machine Learning Research Laboratory at UNT.
Cornelia’s research interests lie at the intersection of machine learning, text mining, information retrieval, social and information network analysis, and natural language processing, with applications in scholarly digital libraries. She has published research papers in prestigious venues such as AAAI, IJCAI, WWW, ICDM, ECIR, JCDL, Coling, and D-Lib. Cornelia reviewed for many journals including Nature, ACM Transactions on Intelligent Systems and Technology, Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering, and Transactions on Affective Computing, and was a PC member for top conferences such as Coling, ACL, IJCAI, SAC, CIKM, and WWW.