EC&I 833 · Uncategorized

Distractions … An Obstacle to Real Learning

Is the Internet really a productivity tool or merely an endless series of distractions?  Has the Internet created a world of ‘multitaskers’ who don’t accomplish as much as they could have without it? – an insightful prompt this week … 

As I watched Single-tasking is the New Multi-tasking, I felt as though James Hamblin was speaking for me.  I hadn’t seen this video before so in anticipation of blogging about it, I thought I would watch it, complete a few tasks and blog later so that I could form some thoughts.  When I started viewing, I was eating my breakfast, having a coffee, getting reading to pay some bills and sending an email.  My daughter called me so I went to help her in the washroom, but I didn’t want to stop the video so I took my computer.  Just as I got to the washroom, I realized I was reacting to some ideas in the video and opened a google doc to track my thinking (just as James Hamblin suggested that I was probably doing something else while I was listening – insert rolled eyes).  At that moment,  my son walked by and asked, “Mom – are you seriously watching a video in the bathroom?” Caught.  Point-blank. Multi-tasking with the internet and in real life …

I have two reactions to this week’s prompt.  First of all, I do believe the internet is a productivity tool.  In many aspects, it increases my productivity – ability to order online, pay bills, do group work, participate in EC&I 833 in my pyjamas (and perhaps a glass of wine!) without having to get a babysitter as well as communicate with others far away in a time frame that works for me.  As well, I find email allows me to be more productive despite some of the drawbacks in this week’s article about the impact of email.  I can quickly update families about class information as well as communicate with other professionals without having to play phone tag.  The internet has opened up many aspects of productivity for me.

Secondly, while I believe there are many benefits to the internet, I do believe that the internet’s ability to silently promote multi-tasking is problematic.  I think it’s affecting our ability to be present in a moment.  Sometimes I tell myself that today’s students are natural multi-taskers because that’s how they’ve grown up, but perhaps that may be multi-taskers because they’ve rarely been shown how to live in one moment and choose to be present.  As well, I find myself increasingly distracted while completing one task.  When I’m finally taking time to sit and watch a TV show, if I’m even minutely bored, I will pick up my phone and search through any number of social media apps or read news articles until my attention is drawn back to the TV.  I was not raised with the internet so these are habits I’ve learned.

The following short video, What the Internet is Doing to our Brains, discusses how our thinking and memory is manipulated by distractions with relationship to the internet:

We are living in this perpetual state of distraction. That mode of thinking crowds out the contemplative, calmer modes of thinking and that focused, calm thinking is actually how we learn … memory consolidation  … Nicholas Carr   author,  The Shallows

This week’s video, prompt and the video above caused me to be more reflective on my multi-tasking and distractions – specifically related to the internet and technology.   I can tell that when I try to store too much information or try to do too many things at once that I am less effective and productive.   It makes sense as an educator that creating long term memory requires focused work with few distractions.  As I age, I can’t afford for my memory not to store information, so I need to be mindful about the distractions that I create and allow – for myself, my own children and my students.

Do you notice a link to your distractions and your ability to retain information?


4 thoughts on “Distractions … An Obstacle to Real Learning

  1. Hi Natalie. I do think for sure there is a great link between our ability to retain information and from our daily distractions. Work email has for sure taken over my life and has distracted me while I’m at home and even during my own prep. It’s all about the balance when we use technology though…none of us are perfect at it.

    Thanks for sharing your post.


  2. I definitely agree! I have to make a conscious effort to have “one tab open” so to speak in order to retain what I am focusing on. Otherwise, my phone will be dinging, I’ll be distracted by an interesting article on facebook or twitter; or I’m watching a TV show. If I am watching a TV show that I actually care to pay attention to, I have to rewind when I receive a text, turn off the sound on my phone, or pause the TV show I am watching. Otherwise, I have no idea what just happened. Its sad but true:(


  3. Good Points Natalie. I too am trying to be better at being 100% present in whatever it is that I’m doing. It affects you deeply when even your 2 year old daughter knows when the iphone is getting more attention than she is. I try to make a conscious effort to give my full attention to whatever or whoever needs it at any given moment. Not as easy as it sounds. Thanks for sharing.


  4. I really appreciate your thoughts in this blog Natalie! Not only do I relate to your anecdote about being busted multi-tasking in real life terms, but this week I didn’t really take the time to consider what this age of ‘multi-tasking’ (on the internet) means for our children and students. Your statement: “perhaps that may be multi-taskers because they’ve rarely been shown how to live in one moment and choose to be present” really resonated with me. It made me consider what my children see me doing throughout the day, and while I work to ensure there is time in our home that is ‘device free’, there are certainly more times I could be more present and less ‘multi-tasking’ around them. Thank you for pointing this out – it is something I am going to work to focus on in the coming weeks!


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