Is the Internet really helping us multitask?

After watching “Single-tasking is the New Multi-tasking” I found myself laughing a little bit at the points that were made. I found a few of the points hit home with me while others are maybe not so accurate. I had to laugh when I thought of people sharing their screens in our class. I do not think I have ever seen one desktop with only one tab open at a time. It just does not happen. Everyone has multiple tabs open. It would be interesting to see how everyone would react to a “Tabless Thursday.” I know for me personally I hate having a bunch of tabs open at one time. I for sure use multiple tabs at work and have about 4-5 open when I am working on something, however, as soon as I can close them, I will. Just last year, I set up a dual monitor system at work and I found that to be so beneficial. Instead of wasting time flipping back and forth between tabs I was able to have my two screens up and work between the two. I found I was more focused and able to finish my work quicker because I was able to stay on task. I did not take breaks or become distracted between each tab change. Does that go against what he is saying with multiple tabs? His example about writing a paper and going off on tangents and then becoming distracted was very relatable. When I am struggling to wrap my head around what I am writing on I find I work in chunks. I might have a thought and then go and google it then look for a bit and then come back. It never escalates as far as he did in his example. I find the bigger distraction for me is my phone. I find even as I am writing this my mind is drifting off to other things. Staying focused can be difficult but I get distracted in different ways. I pause and text or snap someone. I think of something else I want to do and maybe make a purchase on amazon that I keep putting off. I pause and creep Facebook to see what else is new (nothing has changed since I did this 5 minutes ago). It is mindless breaks that I really do not need but it is a habit that I have created. I relate in the sense that I cannot finish a paper efficiently but not because of opening tabs on my computer but because of the phone that is sitting on my desk.

Is the ability to multitask really a bad thing? I remember past employers mentioning to me that they preferred to hire high-school athletes because their ability to multitask and get jobs done efficiently made them a more desirable hire. Of course, this is not always the case but that was just one observation that was made. A careertrend.com article I found mentioned “Multitasking has been heralded as one of the best ways to get ahead, both at work and at home. Doing more than one thing at a time can increase efficiency, productivity, free up more time, and in some cases, save you money.” Entreprenuer.com talks about how multitasking can make you more competitive in your field and makes you beneficial to a business because you can take on more than one role. When I think of being a teacher, we are constantly multitasking. We are working one-on-one with a student while we keep an eye on little Johnny because we can see his frustration is starting to rise. We are also thinking about how much longer we are going to provide our students on this activity and when we should let them know its time to transition to the next. Not to mention thinking about our own families and maybe what we might need to grab on the way home in order to make supper tonight. Or is that just me?

To me this is all beneficial multitasking. What was mentioned in the video came across more as a distraction. Just like the phone that keeps buzzing on my desk and pulling me away from this blog. Our ability to ignore the urge to google some random fact that pops into our head or answer that text is what makes us efficient. Maybe I can answer that text quickly and move on with this post. Or maybe I answer that text, check instagram for the sixth time and then take a drink of water, look at the clock, think about what else I need to do today and then finally come back to the blog five minutes later. To me that is not multitasking, that is being distracted and getting pulled away from what I should be focusing on. Have you ever looked around the room at at staff meeting? How many people check their phones regularly or are on them constantly? How many people bring their laptops to do prep work while they sit through the meeting? Is that multitasking or is that disengaging from the meeting and trying to make the most of your time while being somewhere you have to be but don’t want to be? Some may be able to multitask and follow along and be engaged in the staff meeting for sure. I know that some of our teachers are not present in the staff meeting because they are focused on what is happening on their computer. How about students during class? Maybe if I removed my phone from the room while I wrote this blog I would be writing something far more magical?

Single-tasking is the New Multitasking – The Atlantic video

The invention of productivity suites and presentation tools have allowed us to become more efficient multitaskers. We can use many different presentation tools to share images, videos, text and more while presenting to a class. We allow our audience to focus on a visual while also listening to someone speak. This helps with different learning styles and also student engagement. We have all been to lectures where we have done everything we can not to fall asleep. The use of stimulating presentations have helped keep people stay engaged and it allows them to make connections to what is being shared. It takes a special person to captivate an audience and keep them with them without the use of some type of presentation tool. It seems as the younger generations get older they require more stimulus to stay engaged but they can also stay focused with a lot of stimulus around them. Everyone learns differently and everyone can handle different levels of multitasking. I just think it is important to know when multitasking is really just being distracted!

9 thoughts on “Is the Internet really helping us multitask?

  1. Hi Jocelyn! I really like the gifs and images you have put into this post. I think they have really captured what you are trying to say. However, I have to admit, the balloon one distracted me from my reading. 😉 Anyway, I do agree that perhaps we need to look closely at the definitions of multi-tasking vs distraction. I think being able to do several tasks in this day and age is an expectation, especially in education. I can’t say that it is always effective and productive though; however, we are in positions of needing this skill as we are in a room full of students often doing different things and we need to interact with, keep tabs on and support our students. But, I do walk away sometimes thinking how nice it would be to just focus on the moment and being present without the clutter of all that needs to be done in the next 5 minutes, next hour, next day, next week. Would this make us more effective and more present for our students? Maybe.

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    1. catherineready

      Great post, Jocelyn! I relate to how using two monitors is a game changer. It feels much cleaner and easier to focus because I can pull up what I am working on the main screen and hide my messy multi-tab windows on the other screen. Multitasking in the classroom reminds me of having too many open tabs, so I think teachers need to be mindful of how much they have going on at one time. And yes, like you I am often thinking about what I need to get for supper that evening!

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    2. I totally agree with you Tammy. Sometimes the multitasking we are doing does not always feel so productive. I think really understanding what is meant by multitasking changes the way we talk about it. I think being able to do a few things at the same time isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Being able to teach a lesson while handing out papers or something similar that is that simple. But the video we watched seemed like an excessive waste of time when he was talking about opening multiple tabs or cooking supper, showering and reading. No thank you! I know I used to do my work in front of the TV all the time. I would watch a show I didn’t need to fully invest in and work away. If I just turned off that TV and focused on my work I would have had it done in far less time. That is an example of multitasking that I think focusing on one task is far better. I think when I originally wrote my post I was focused more on the distracting part of multitasking rather than how important it could be just to focus on one task at a time! Thanks for encouraging me to think about this a little deeper!

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  2. Great post Jocelyn! I can’t help but chuckle as you described the staff meeting dilemma with staff often focusing on their computers rather than the conversation at hand. This is so very true and can often be distracting for those of us who are leading these meetings! Somehow over covid, the gym in our school has lost all internet. As frustrating as that may seem, it has actually been wonderful to have a captivated audience during our staff meetings. Most people seem much more engaged and it feels like we are all on the same page without everyone’s face stuck in whatever is happening on their screen. Perhaps we may need to continue on with this screen-free tradition once we join the wonderful world of wifi again!

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    1. Linnea that is very interesting about the change in internet and how that has effected your staff meetings. I would believe it would. I also think it would be very distracting as an administrator to lead the meetings and have everyone nose deep into their laptops. It would be interesting to see how different people are reacting to the decisions made in the staff meeting now. Is there more follow through because they are more engaged in the decision making process kind of thing!

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  3. I think you are likely right. Who wouldn’t want to be engaged in the decisions that are being made at a school level during a pandemic? It is important for us to feel safe and be involved in any way that we can.

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  4. Pingback: Juggling is not recommended? | Seymour's Social Media Discoveries

  5. Great post Jocelyn! I could not agree more that phones are one of the greatest tools for distraction of our time! It is rare to see anyone nowadays without a phone. I can completely relate to your staff meeting example of wanting to be somewhere else and making the best use of your time when having to sit through a meeting you really don’t want to.

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