Multitasking Your Way on a Daily Basis

We’ve all been there, either in class, at work or on a date, well-focused and interested and then suddenly your phone vibrates.. Whether it’s a Tweet, a FB notification, an email from work or simply a text from your friend, the temptation is often too overwhelming to resist. But that’s alright, you’re an accomplished multitasker. After all, you’ve been answering your email while listening to a conference or listening to music while going through files forever and that never failed you. So you thought.

As a side effect of the overly technological world in which we live, we all multitask to a certain extend. But are we really mindful of the repercussions it has our productivity? Firstly let us agree on what multitasking actually is. As defined in Psychology Today, you’re multitasking when you’re accomplishing two tasks simultaneously. Seems broad enough of a definition, but according the same website, there are two underlying conditions. The first one is that at least one of the tasks needs to be so well-learned that it is an automatism, like running or eating. The other condition is that they need to involve different types of brain processing. For instance, you could read while listing to classical music, or run while listening to a podcast because both activities are soliciting different areas of the brain. However, it is suggested in that same article that listening to music with lyrics in a language you master while reading in that same language severely impedes one’s understanding. Accordingly, if you’re a self-proclaimed multi-tasker because you recite Dante’s Inferno while reading its meta-analysis with the latest record of the Black Keys on, you might not get much out of it. Sad but true.

Upon reading several articles, I recently discovered that I was actually a ‘serial-tasker‘, and you might very well be on the same boat. Rather than engaging in simultaneous tasks, serial-tasker will rapidly shift from one to another. You’ll read a little, then go update your status on Facebook, go back to your readings before sending a quick text to you lover. You dive into something for a short time before stepping out briefly and getting back into it, and that’s incredibly counterproductive. Indeed some researches suggest that you brain needs a certain time to adapt to the new task and that by switching from one to another you lose an awful lot of time, cognitive energy and focus. They go as far as suggesting that it takes up to 40% more time to accomplish something than if you were single-tasking.

Now I could mention countless studies supporting the fact that multitasking, or serial-tasking’ and they would all lead to the same conclusions: less efficient, less productive, not as well-done. Consequently, even in a world filled with distractive new technologies, you need to single task. It doesn’t imply not to use technology, but reprogram your mind to focus, prioritize and commit to only one thing. When you’ll have focused on one thing for long enough, then you can reward yourself with a little facebooking or watch the newly released video of Lana Del Rey on youtube…

Apps for Teachers: TeacherTool vs TeacherKit

Ironically enough, I debated on blogging about the use of the Ipad in the classroom for a long time. Although using such device on a regular basis will always be a work in progress, the months of research I’ve invested got me to feel confident using it in the classroom as a teacher. Accordingly, my reluctance to write about is wasn’t merely based on my competency, but more on the fact that this post could go endlessly, in very various directions, and I wouldn’t even be close to summarize the opportunities that such a great device holds. 

Anyhow, for this post I intend to focus more of the various apps one could use to manage her classroom. When I first start as a teacher, I felt ready to go out there and teach. I felt like I had the teaching skills to popularize complex notions to my students and the strong will to captivate them. However I was terrified by all the logistics of the classroom. My head was already filled with mental notes as it was, I didn’t see how I could find more space to remember that I needed to verify Jimmy’s homework, to get Anna’s signature and to bring an extra copy of the homework for Sam who’s missing the next two classes. Although I eventually developed my own system, I must say that apps such as “Teacher Tool” and “Teacher Kit” helped my get everything together. 

Both apps (available on Itune on full and demo version) offer a wide range of tools for teacher of every level. Firstly, they allow you to create a classroom in which every student has a profile with categories such as remarks, reminders, marks, comments, student’s email, parents’ email and even a profile picture. Once you’ve created your class with a profile for every of your students, you can then arrange them in a sitting plan. A very useful way of remembering everyone’s name before the term hasn’t even started yet!

A very useful functionality I quickly discovered was to take the attendance with it.  To do so, you simply click on the students that are late or absent and once you’re finished it will automatically send an email with all of these informations to the secretary or even the parents. It also keeps tracks of the total of absence and stores it in the student’s profile. 

When comes the end of the term, it’s always a hassle to get all the results from your grade-book to the school’s website. With any of these two apps, although “Teacher Tool” works better for this, it becomes much easier. For every competency you have to evaluate, you can create subcategories for every evaluation and give them the total and the weight you wish. It will also automatically calculate your average, transfer the grade to A,B,C,D or E, and highlights students with difficulties. There’s also a comment section for every evaluation. 

In all honesty, even though both apps are great, “Teacher Tool” has much more to offer than “TeacherKit”. While in the grade book section “TeacherKit” doesn’t allow you to create distinct competencies in which you can enter the results of your evaluations, “Teacher Tool” does so amazingly well and offers great ramification of every grade you might have taken. Although I must admit “TeacherKit’s” user-friendliness keeps it nice and simple, one used to “Teacher Tool” functions will be able to gather all of his grade-books, comments, reminders and important messages in only one device. That makes me wonder how people managed before these apps came out! 

 

 

VoiceThread’s Great Promises

It’s now common knowledge that technological tools, software and programs have taken the classroom learning experience to another level. The students of today’s generation have never lived in a world without the Internet, unlike most of us teachers, and it significantly forged their interests and learning strategies. With respects to one’s teaching style and preferences , it’s undoubtable that progress from teacher-centred, archaic grammar teaching methods need to be done. Fortunately, ICTs await for us.

Among the mist of new technologies available to a teacher, one can be a little overwhelmed. The lack of experience, support or inspiration might soon cause conflict with the best intentions. A good place to start for someone who wishes to integrate ITCs in the classroom is to start with VoiceThread. VoiceThread is a platform on the Web 2.0 designed to help user collaborate, communicate, create and share content online. One of its main advantage over the other similar platforms, is that it provides an easy to use collaborative environment for learners.  VoiceThread allows its users to post images, documents (word, excel, power point) and even videos and arrange them into a slide show. Moreover, the students will record their voice over their presentation, thus covering the speech production part of an evaluation. On her side, the teacher can add comments to each slide and leave vocal or even video recorded feedback. They can make the VoiceThread public, if for instance they want to emphasize a sense of community and exchange among the students, or simply private for individual evaluations. 

One of VoiceThread’s best assets is its flexibility. Having used it in my field, ESL teaching, I quickly realized it can ben applied to any subject and to practically any group size. Here are a few instances.

Language art: When covering different theme, era or genres in literature, an experienced teacher could ask her students to go online and select a series of images that are representative of the Victorian era for instance. To take this a step further, you could ask them to comment verbally their pictures, or videos, and create links between the content seen in class the their references. 

Culture and ESL teaching: If an ESL teacher wants to raise his students awareness of the various cultures composing the world English-speaking community, he could ask them to visually represent the customs, pop culture and habits of the Scottish or the Kiwis per say. With a relatively exhaustive research online, students can learn more about sub-categories  composing the foreign culture while increasing their proficiency in English. 

Before concluding, it’s important to remind ourself that using ICTs, and in this case VoiceThread, is known to promote student engagement, increase motivation and eventually enhance the benefits of the learning experience for all students. That is not to say that ICTs should be use in all contexts, but it is time to start thinking of active ways in which we could bring these useful tools into the classroom to diversify the learning experience, make it more interactive and finally adapt our teaching to the students’ interests. 

If you enjoyed learning more about VoiceThread, I suggest you read or watch some of the following links. 

 

VoiceThread Website: http://voicethread.com

VoiceThread for education: http://voicethread4education.wikispaces.com

7 things to know about VoiceThread: http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7050.pdf

Comment a Voicethread: http://anglais.spip.ac-rouen.fr/spip.php?article191

Using VoiceThread: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-U1wlRrKyyk