Single-tasking for the Win!

Multitasking with technology

One of my favourite non-fiction books is titled Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School by developmental molecular biologist John Medina. In his chapter on Attention, he blatantly points out that “Multitasking, when it comes to paying attention, is a myth…we are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously” (p. 84-85). He goes on to say that “The brain is a sequential processor, unable to pay attention to two things at the same time. Businesses and schools praise multitasking, but research clearly shows that it reduces productivity and increases mistakes”. You can read more about his ideas in his blog post found here.

Our professor Alec asked us to watch this video called Single-tasking is the New Multi-tasking and discuss whether the Internet is really a productivity tool or merely an endless series of distractions and whether the Internet has created a world of ‘multi-taskers’ who don’t accomplish as much as they could have without it? This video provides information that relates directly to the ideas that John Medina shares. The speaker likens open tabs on your computer to tabs as a metaphor for different elements in life suggesting that we are not good at multi-tasking online or offline. The difficult part is that society (including schools and workplaces) position multi-tasking as an optimal skill to have. We are constantly bombarded with messages from society and in the media about the value of multi-tasking.

This week, presenters Amy, Amy, Kyle and Colette discussed productivity suites and presentation tools. A productivity suite “is a group of programs for your computer that includes a word processor, a spreadsheet creator and a presentation creator accessible by launching one main application. The suite enables you to share data among the three programs as well as download and use templates from online template providers” (Source). They also shared this video to compare two of the most popular productivity suites Microsoft Office and Google Suites. One of the groups’ recommended readings argued that

“Today, we often take for granted that digital versions of these once-revolutionary technologies come bundled in a single software package many of us use every day. In offices around the world, you’ll find professionals hard at work using the modern productivity suite, which can include word-processing, email, spreadsheet, and presentation software, as well as instant messaging and file-sharing apps. And these powerful office tools empower many millions of office workers to get their jobs done” (Source)

What I find so interesting is that while media/society is pushing for multitasking as an important skill, the research shows that multitasking is ultimately unproductive. Tools like that ones presented this evening (Microsoft Office, Google Suites, etc.) have become an enabler for people to multitask while simultaneously creating a significant distraction. Though as Melanie points out, our reliance on this kind of technology is indisputable. I know that I personally become overwhelmed especially during ed tech courses because I always have so many tabs open. It sometimes becomes difficult to organize my thoughts because I am clicking through tabs or one link leads me to another and down the rabbit hole I go. I would not be able to create my blog posts for this class without the use of technology and presentation tools but I wonder how much time I could save if I only have one tab to focus on! This same problem spills over into many other areas of life including in my workplace and from experiences being a student in the past decade. Technology has created so many possibilities but also so many distractions!

Designer Paolo Cardini questions the efficiency of our multitasking world and makes the case for — gasp — “monotasking (Source)


15 Minutes Outside

ImageI have recently been exploring a book titled “15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to get out of the house and connect with your kids” – by Rebecca P. Cohen. I recommend this book to teachers because it has many different ideas for engaging students in an outdoor experience every single day.

What changes could be made by spending 15 minutes outside each day? What kind of inquiry learning could take place. This book offers many starting points to allow students to explore.

What I really enjoyed about the set up of the book was that the ideas are separated by month. In the fall students can plant cool-season vegetables or make a leaf scrapbook. In the spring one can go pond skimming or compare shadows. There is an abundance of ideas in this book, suitable for each month, each season, and many different areas of interest.

Spending 15 minutes outside every day opens up students to a world that is often closed off as they sit in classrooms or spend time inside playing video games. These 15 minutes create a connection for students with the space and the place that they live in. Thus, beginning an environmental citizenship. How can one care about a place if they don’t have the opportunity to connect with it?

Whether the ideas presented in Cohen’s book are used to stimulate inquiry learning or simply to give students a brain break from the demands of the classroom, spending 15 minutes outside will do nothing but benefit student engagement.

Take Me Outside video

Brains are Great

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities”.
– Dr. Suess

I love learning about brain function — not sure if that qualifies me as a bit of a geek, but nonetheless, they fascinate me. I find myself in constant social interactions where only part of my attention is being given to the actual interaction itself, while the other part of my attention is wondering or predicting what parts of the brain are functioning together or what is going on in a person’s brain that makes them respond accordingly to the interaction. I read a book called Brain Rules by John Medina last year and ever since, I have been hooked.

When I am reading or learning about something I often have a mental video playing in my head… you know those brain animations when they are describing the anatomy and that part lights up. That’s what I think about. It’s very difficult to focus on something when you are constantly thinking about what your own brain is doing and how it might be processing the new information. Especially when brain research tells us that multi-tasking makes us much less effective thinkers/doers.

So, thank your ancestors for your brain and watch this video or read this book.

Reteach and Enrich – How to Make Time for Every Student


A presenter in my EPSY class shared her work on differentiated instruction last Thursday. One of the things she shared what this video.

I have struggled for so long with the idea of leveled groups. I often feel as if students know which group they are in. If they are in the lower group, this may effect their self-esteem and may cause bullying from students in other groups.

This video opened up a whole new concept for me. Even calling the groups “reteach” and “enrich” changes how teachers and students view the members of each group. Students get to learn about differentiated instruction and how everyone has certain strengths in certain areas. In addition, students in the “reteach” group aren’t “reteach” lifers. They get to move up. In turn, the “enrich” students will have areas in which they are challenged and have to have additional time to work with these concepts. Students even get to work with peers in other classrooms.

I especially liked the collaboration that the teachers showed in the video. The one who was stronger with the specific math topic taught the enrich students that week. The teachers are also modeling for students that one doesn’t need to be good at everything — everyone has strengths and everyone has challenges.

There are many pieces from this video that I know I can use in my own classrooms of the future. It would be excellent to be part of a school-team that taught differentiated instruction through “Reteach and Enrich”.

Project of Heart

In my pre-internship I worked with a classroom of grade four students. During my three-week block I taught about Canadian residential schools. We connected with Project of Heart where we had to do a number of tasks, some of which included inviting an Elder into the classroom, creating an action plan and painting the tiles seen in the image to commemorate students who died in residential schools.


Promoting Play in Elementary Classrooms

Check out my latest Prezi on Promoting Play in elementary classrooms. This Prezi was designed with supporting evidence about the importance of encouraging learning through movement and play. Along with the Prezi, I also spent time with my peer partner creating a group of 6 movement activities for grade three students. These activities include:

My partner and I hope to take this activity kit into our pre-internship classrooms. Her classroom is grade 1/2 and I am in grade 4. We decided to focus on a grade 3 level so that each of us could adapt the activities for our grades. I can’t wait to try them out!