Single-Tasking vs. Multi-Tasking
This week, we were asked to watch the video below and reflect on productivity tools and the endless distractions of the Internet.
I’m feeling a little personally attacked by this video… and I will definitely NOT be participating in “Tab-less Thursday”! I refuse to make such a monumental commitment. This video reminded me of two of my favourite blog posts, which help explain procrastination and late-ness to non-procrastinators and punctual people. (Seriously, READ THESE if you want to understand the procrastinators and late people in your life better. TLDR: It’s not our fault!!!)
Productivity vs. Endless Distractions
- Is the Internet really a productivity tool or merely an endless series of distractions?
- And to what extent have the productivity tools discussed today made us more “productive” (or are they only necessary because we now live in a world of distractions)?
- Are we more productive than we were pre-Internet and pre-Microsoft Office?
I think the Internet is both a productivity tool AND an endless series of distractions. As we discussed in our presentation, productivity suites like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace allow for collaboration through shared documents, presentations, notebooks, forms, interactive whiteboards, and more. Presentation tools like PowerPoint, Google Slides, Keynote, Adobe Spark, Sway, Canva, and Prezi have built-in templates and designs to speed up the process of making your presentation visually appealing.
Although these tools have made it easier to collaborate with others long-distance, I don’t know if they have made us more productive. Maybe they are necessary because we live in a world of distractions or maybe because our society puts so much value on efficiency and productivity. I barely remember a time without the Internet (although I do remember dial-up, early versions of Microsoft Paint, and Space Cadet 3D Pinball), so it’s hard to say if we were more productive pre-Internet. However, I think the more productive we become, the more productivity standards change… and so we’re caught in this endless productivity trap while also dealing with infinite distractions (on and off the Internet).
Why are we obsessed with productivity?
Kelly reminded me of the movie Limitless and how it ties in well with our society’s obsession with productivity. In the movie, Bradley Cooper’s character, Eddie, is a struggling author who seems to have limited ambition and focus. After his girlfriend breaks up with him, he starts taking a drug called NZT-48, which gives him the ability to fully use his brain and makes him incredibly productive. He finishes writing his book in 4 days, starts investing in the stock market, and quickly rises to the top of the financial world. The trailer includes the line, “How many of us ever know what it is to become the perfect version of ourselves?”
In our presentation, we explained that the popularity of Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 in schools (even though they were created for businesses) tells us that our society highly values productivity, finishing tasks, working all the time, and being constantly available. It is reminiscent of an industrial or factory model of school where we are producing students on an assembly line and spitting out highly productive members of society.
In Sir Ken Robinson’s popular Ted Talk, Schools Kill Creativity, he talks about how schools have bells, separate subjects, standardization, and how we sort students by their “date of manufacturing” and produce them in batches (6:30-7:30 in the video).
This reading, Schools Leverage Apps and Easy-to-Manage Suites of Learning Tools, has several quotes that show our obsession with productivity, increased speed, and wasting less time:
- The cloud-based tools integrate well and require minimal management to work in concert…
- Microsoft tools like Word, Office Lens and OneNote allow students to increase text spacing and shorten line length, both research-backed techniques to increase reading accuracy and speed.
- “The ease of use and the seamless connectivity of tools through Google Classroom has really sold our teachers and students on the tools…”
I’m not saying that productivity in itself is a bad thing. I am very driven by my to-do lists and often wish I had better control over my procrastination tendencies. But we need to be critical of society’s obsession with productivity and how that plays into schools through our use of productivity suites and presentation tools. Sometimes, we need to slow down, take some deep breaths, and rethink things to ensure we don’t get ourselves and our students caught in this productivity trap.