Distractions are the epitome of my life. I have always been a proud multitasker, but I’m starting to realize that this isn’t always a good thing. Many of the environments that we work and live in each day don’t provide the structure to be a single-tasker. We utilize computers and networks that have instant messaging, email, and other “productivity” tools that perpetuate the rabbit hole syndrome that defines distraction. As a parent, I feel that I get interrupted all the time on a task by a request for help or to answer a plethora of questions from my kids and even husband that pull me away from focusing on my “job”.
I am an avid audiobook listener. I find it easier to listen to an audiobook while I do yard work, working on a crossword puzzle, or when playing an addicting game on my phone. Is this considered multitasking? I feel things like audiobooks increase the ability of multitasking. How many people do you know that sit and do nothing else while listening to an audiobook? I’ve never read more books in the past few months due to this “productivity tool”. I have difficulties reading an actual book because I have to put all my attention into and not let anything interfere. As I type this, perhaps this is my problem. In my opinion, there are times when multitasking can be beneficial in a leisure environment. However, there is a difference in multitasking for work-related tasks.
This article lists ten reasons why single-tasking is beneficial.
Personally, I love many things the Internet offers. When I talk about the Internet, I refer to the surface web, not the deep dark web. I consider myself a very naive Internet user, who just found out about the different layers of the Internet a couple of weeks ago. I had no idea about the scary, dangerous parts it has. I like to use the Internet since it helps me learn and expand my knowledge as an individual, as a mom and a teacher.
Having said that, I also noticed that the Internet adds a lot of stress to my life. I would like to start with my life as a mom. Many of you might judge my parenting skills after this blog post, but I often notice, that I am not strong enough when it comes to setting limits to my children’s screen time. If I am busy doing house work, school work, that we often have to continue during our “free evenings”, taking university classes or doing homework, my children keep themselves entertained by playing video games or being on their phones. The guilt that my kids being on the Internet is giving me as a parent is indescribable. It often makes me mad as well since it is so strong holding my children’s interest and attention, that often times they don’t hear me or they have no free hands helping me, since these big smartphones do not fit into our pockets any more.
As a teacher, I see both the positive and negative side of the Internet. Being a non-native speaker who teaches EAL, having access to the Internet gives me a sense of calm and relief, since it is there to help me communicate with my students through a translating app, offers pictures to help my students understand words and concepts when we are stuck, as well as it provides a huge amount of materials and tools to make learning and teaching more engaging. On the other hand, I think it can be a distraction for our students especially when looking for information when writing a paper or working on a project. As the video, “Single-tasking is the new multi-tasking” suggested, having multiple tabs open makes it very easy to get side tracked. Staying on task requires a lot of self-control that often times even adults struggle with. When working on the Internet, with the constant notifications, it is literally impossible to focus on one task.
Before COVID 19, I viewed the Internet as a nice addition that we can use to make our learning and teaching more engaging and rich. During the Supplemental Learning schools were offering, it became the tool that caused the most frustration and stress in our household. Don’t get me wrong, I love to learn, be up to date, and use wonderful tools but the many-many hours of shoving information into our brains about how to use Seesaw, TEAMS, OneNote, and the list is endless, I felt that everything was coming so fast at me that I couldn’t really digest it. I need time to learn how to use and implement these tools purposefully. As my classmate Catherine said, I often feel like my head is spinning and having access to the Internet is taking a toll on my mental health.
Reflecting on multitasking, the main cause for me having multiple tabs open is that when having an endless to-do list, this gives me the feeling that I can achieve more in the same amount of time. My brain is always in a million places, thinking about the various needs of my students, my children and myself. And if I think about the Internet being a productivity tool or an endless series of distraction, I feel it definitely takes away from our time to build meaningful relationships. When I cannot have a quite meal with my children, or a good night sleep because of an email I receive on a Sunday evening, I start doubting the benefits of the Internet. At this point, I am very much looking forward to a COVID19 free time, to be able to immerse myself at my own pace into exploring and implementing the best tools the Internet offers in order to feel truly productive, since as Catherine said “Productivity tools are only helpful if the user has a plan to incorporate the tools in their daily routines”. And for now, I am soaking in Nancy‘s advice and taking one step at a time towards becoming a Productivity Ninja.
I am a productivity ninja. No, really! I am. I am a workshop trainer for a company called Think Productive . The workshops are based on a book by the company founder, Graham Allcott called "How to Be a Productivity Ninja"
Other helpful resources to help you with productivity ideas and tips:
Congratulations to my classmates Kaleigh, Lisa, Tammy and Tarina for presenting the first session. I thought you did a very thorough job of sharing the history and use of AV (audio visual) aids in the classroom.
The blog prompt for this week was to evaluate a statement made by Neil Postman who was an American educator, prolific author and critic of technology and its role in education.
Postman was outspoken about the "corrosive effects of television on our politics and public discourse" in his 1985 book "Amusing Ourselves to Death". I read this book in 2016 during the months leading to the US election and was astounded at how prophetic his thinking was and how it applied to Donald Trump. I won't go further into this topic, because I don't want this to become a political post.... however, I would recommend this book if you are interested in how the internet is affecting politics.
Postman wrote: “…We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.”
I think Postman is right, the idea of entertainment like Sesame Street has evolved and progressed how we approach new ways of engaging students vs the traditional way of schooling. But what I don't agree with is his thinking that TV is the wrong medium for learning and education. Can you imagine what Postman would think about the rise in popularity of Youtube and the endless hours of programming available on this platform?
In our class, many have shared examples of the best teachers they have had and how they used entertaining ways to impart their knowledge. The fact that we have countless resources/videos on a variety of platforms to help us understand complex and complicated lessons and make it easier to understand is truly amazing.
The newest trend is the rise of educators using TikTok as a platform to help. While normally used for videos of people dancing, sharing memes or other entertainment, there is a rapid uptake in the popularity of hashtags such as #algebra and #mathematics, boasting hundreds of millions of views.
Do you use resources like TikTok to help supplement your teaching?
If a child can read, write, and count, but cannot converse, question and socialize, then he or she is not properly educated.
– Neil Postman
Neil Postman’s disputed quotes are something I find interesting to dissect as it brings to light some persuasive arguments regarding the ‘edutainment’ industry that is prevalent in our society and continues to be a hot topic of discussion.
In a book Postman wrote in 1985, Amusing Ourselves to Death, he states “…We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.”
First off, I would like to understand what he means by “the traditional idea of schooling”. He quoted this about 35 years ago, which takes us into the mid 80’s. During this time, starting in the late 70’s, educators and parents were concerned for declining test scores, and therefore worried about the quality of education delivered in schools. In 1978, the US government established a new Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965: Title II Basic Skills Improvement. One of the purposes of this new legislation was “to expand the use of television and other technology in the delivery of instructional programs aimed at improving achievement in the basic skills”. The focus on basic skills was a shift from the liberal educational practices of the 60’s and 70’s. This approach became the traditional way to educate, likely what Postman is referring to in this quote.
In another article I found, Postman explains this quote in a little more detail identifying that Sesame Street is “is a terrific television show and really uses all the resources of a visual image-based medium…they are learning their letters and numbers”. However, “they are learning that it must always be entertaining, that learning is largely a matter of images, and that learning has to involve immediate gratification. All these collateral learnings turn out in the end to be much more important than whether kids are actually learning their letters and numbers. Most kids learn letters and numbers in due time, anyway”. There are many types of learning styles that are addressed using the technology of television that aren’t necessarily used in a traditional school setting. Technologies, such as television, are sometimes a more suitable means for learning for our visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners that benefit from the imaginary, musical, and mnemonic approaches that shows like Sesame Street use.
I do understand his point but don’t necessarily agree with it. He says that he raised his children in a counter environment to television by exposing them to books filled with words, printed words and talked to them about printed words and they turned out to be highly successful adults (astrophysicist, writer, teacher). Of course, we still encourage our parents to start reading with their kids at an early age and to read daily, but why can’t this be in conjunction with other types of learning media. I know he feels that technology such as television, tablets, and smartphones are replacing books, I think all of these media are important to the development of our children when used in balance with one another.
He continues to argue that “television makes it increasingly impossible to sustain the idea of childhood and that in North America, especially, we can see its rapid disappearance.” I do agree that these new technologies are changing the childhood landscape that we grew up in, but there are always going to be benefits and detriments to this type of change, especially at the speed that is it currently changing. We need to learn how these new technologies and approaches to learning can be used effectively and efficiently in conjunction with other types of approaches in order to reach the diverse student learning profiles that we see in schools today. We can’t paint everyone with the same paintbrush and need to be cognizant of the socio-economic diversity that also impacts the overall development of our youth.
One thing I do agree with Postman is that:
“parents need to regulate how much time their children can watch television and what they can watch, what films they can see and even what records they can have. They must talk to their children a lot about what they are exposed to in these media. If parents are paying considerable attention to what’s happening, then I think it’s possible to provide children with a childhood. But, if you are too busy or your life circumstances, for whatever reason, don’t permit that, then NBC, CBS, Steven Spielberg, Coca-Cola, and Procter and Gamble will simply do the job.”
We need to engage with our children and the media that they are using. This ties in directly with teaching digital citizenship, an area for which I feel should be part of the written curriculum. However, we can’t simply shield our children from this new technology as it is a part of the world we live in. Instead, we need to ensure that it has a specific purpose and is used efficiently and effectively in order to help support our development in the world in all aspects, not just in the education world. Following up with our students when using these technologies is just as important as using these educational tools themselves as it creates new learnings and connects them to what a child already knows.
Many studies have been conducted to analyze the impacts of ‘edutainment’ technology, such as Sesame Street. Although Postman feels that this show gives a false representation of what traditional school is, some argue that it provides at least some educational opportunities for the 60% of the 4-year-olds who aren’t enrolled in preschool programs.
A study out of the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that Sesame Street is “the largest and least-costly [early childhood] intervention that’s ever been implemented” in the United States (Kearney and Levine, 2016). The annual cost per-child of Sesame Street in today’s dollars was just $5. The results also indicate that Sesame Street improved school readiness, particularly for boys and children living in economically disadvantaged areas. The study argues that Sesame Street was the first MOOC.
The idea of the tv program was to foster preschoolers’ “intellectual and cultural development” and, perhaps more importantly, to “reduce the educational deficits experienced by disadvantaged youth based on differences in their environment,” (Kearney and Levine, 2016).
“It [Sesame Street] normalizes other kinds of diversity, too—from learning disabilities to destitution to imaginary friends, the show teaches children that it was okay to be different, that everyone struggles and develops in their own ways.”
Another benefit of Sesame Street that didn’t exist in most educational settings was diversity. This exposure developed an awareness of ethnic identities and social status, along with the ability to make social comparisons, and these experiences of a variety of backgrounds can help shape perceptions of society.
So, Mr. Postman, although you have some valid points to your argument, I do believe that we have to embrace new technologies and incorporate their beneficial possibilities to fit the needs of our current student populations. These technologies have and will continue to change the educational landscape with much criticism and praise going forward. It’s up to us to figure out how to best integrate them to help increase the success rate of producing as many critical thinkers, creative masters, conscientious communicators, and effective collaborators into our society.
Below, take a look at some interesting educational changes throughout the decades that incorporate the advancements of technologies.
According to The importance of audio visual technology in education “A wide selection of AV tools make teaching and learning a rich and enjoyable experience, inspire learners with creative and innovative multimedia activities and will also save time in lesson preparation”.
To be honest, I cannot imagine my life without AV tools. In my childhood, I experienced what is like to live in darkness. During communism we spent many many hours in darkness due to power outage and the highlight of those years were playing board games by candle light. We had two hours of T.V. program every evening and a little bit more on Saturdays and Sundays. Unfortunately I cannot relate with my classmates regarding the Sesame Street. I grew up watching Tom & Jerry, Popeye, and Charlie Chaplin. I truly enjoyed them. We also had a Natural Geographic show and of course the celebration of our good old communist leader. Looking back makes me sad. At that time it felt normal, since I didn’t know what we were missing out on but today I feel it was terribly unfair. What makes me even more sad that there are still people who live in darkness, just like we did.
Being an English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher, I actually think AV tools give a different meaning to teaching. Thanks to my classmate, Curtis who introduced the wonderful Microsoft Translator app to me, I can have a conversation even with my newcomer students who do not know one single word in English. With my beginner learners, I am heavily relying on various language learning programs, such as starfall.com, Reading A-Z, flocabulary.com, and vocabulary.com. Often times I feel that having access to the Internet can be a life saver. When I am trying to teach students various vocabulary words, such as “high chair”, “crib” or “playpen”, having the opportunity to pull out my phone and show them pictures makes teaching and learning a lot more accessible.
AV tools, such as Newsela, and Youtube videos also play a big role in my everyday life as a teacher. I particularly like Newsela, since it gives me the possibility to meet my students’ needs since it offers a wide variety of articles at different reading levels. I also find the rich content Youtube is offering very helpful. I like to incorporate videos, TED talks, and podcasts since they are great tools to improve my students’ listening skills as well. The rich content the various Open Educational resources offer, such as the Khan Academy, are great ways to teach flipped lessons, or provide students with the opportunity to study at their own pace with providing translation in several foreign languages. And talking about foreign languages, we cannot forget about the assistive technology that helps meet the needs of a wide variety of students.
Looking back at the four courses I took as part of my Masters Certificate Program in Educational Technology, I had the opportunity to experience the benefits of using AV tools to showcase my learning. Documenting my piano learning journey in the form of a podcast, creating a website and the summaries of learning are all examples of creative multimedia activities that took my learning to a higher level. I had the opportunity to incorporate some of my podcasts into teaching my students the author’s purpose. I played them three parts of my podcast and they had to identify if it was informative, entertaining or persuasive. The reason I decided to use my own podcast with my students was that I speak fairly slowly and I knew that was important for my English language learners. I also added a script to make it easier to understand. This way the activity not only focused on identifying the author’s purpose, but on developing listening and reading skills at the same time. While reflecting and writing about this activity, I started thinking, why I never asked my students to create their own informative, persuasive, and/or entertaining recording with a topic of their choice? I guess this is where the idea of “constructionism” comes in. Reflecting on our teaching is truly important. I just realized I missed out on a great opportunity that I would definitely incorporate in the future.
As a mom, I love watching my children’s recordings where they explain what they learnt. I think this is a wonderful way for students to explain their way of thinking as well as reflect on their learning. It is also a safe environment, where my English learners and the shy students do not have to fear about being judged and in case of a mistake, or a “bug”, there’s always the RETAKE button or the chance to “de-bug”.
There is one thing I do not agree with though from the quote, that lesson preparation with AV tools takes less time. Looking for the right materials, discovering and exploring the various open educational resources, creating games, collaborating with other professionals, dealing with lack of devices etc. can be very time consuming and stressful especially if the respective teacher is not comfortable using technology. I agree that a great teacher can teach a great lesson with-, or without AV tools. I also think that AV tools can truly be helpful when it comes to teaching EAL students. The opportunity to fly to the home country with the help of Google Earth is just one example of the many powerful AV tools.