Given the overwhelming evidence against the concept of multitasking I wonder why teacher training courses still seem to preach the dogma of while-viewing and while-listening activities. Why should we force students to multitask when studies suggest that multitasking is hindering learning and is detrimental to academic performance?
Perhaps teachers are afraid they could come across as lazy or too permissive giving students the seemingly easy task of watching a video or listening to an audio file. On the contrary – listening to authentic language in a well chosen video is a very difficult task in itself. It doesn’t have to be accompanied by some sort of note-taking activity to be demanding. If a teacher has to be afraid learners might not pay attention without an additional task, maybe the video is just not interesting enough.
I say, let your students focus on listening and viewing. Give them video and audio that will interest them – and give them time and space to process the input.
Put some effort into scaffolding when using authentic video or audio. Well-prepared pre- and post-activities will help immensely. The only while-activity, however, should be trying to understand.