Tag Archives: teaching

The Multitasking Myth

By Jill Murphy, author of Labyrinth Learning’s Microsoft® Word 2016: Comprehensive

We all do it: Texting while walking, sending emails during meetings, chatting on the phone while cooking dinner. In today’s society, doing just one thing at a time seems downright luxurious—even wasteful. But chances are, you’re not doing yourself (or your boss, your friends, or your family) any favors by multitasking your way through the day. Research shows it’s not nearly as effective as we like to believe.

It can even be harmful to our health.

 

You’re Not Really Multitasking

What you call multitasking is really task-switching, says Guy Winch, PhD, author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries. He says:

“When it comes to attention and productivity,
our brains have a finite amount.”

Moving back and forth between several tasks actually wastes productivity, he says, because your attention is expended on the act of switching gears—plus, you never get fully “in the zone” for either activity.

You’re Working More Slowly

Contrary to popular belief, multitasking doesn’t save time. In fact, it will probably take you longer to finish two projects when you’re jumping back and forth than it would to finish each one separately.

The same is true even for behaviors as seemingly automatic as driving. In a 2008 University of Utah study, drivers took longer to reach their destinations when they chatted on cell phones.

“What tends to save the most time is to do things in batches,” says Winch. “Pay your bills all at once, then send your emails all at once. Each task requires a specific mindset, and once you get in a groove you should stay there and finish.”

You’re Making Mistakes

Experts estimate that switching between tasks can cause a 40% loss in productivity. It can also cause you to introduce errors into whatever you’re working on, especially if one or more of your activities involves a lot of critical thinking.

A 2010 French study found that the human brain can handle two complicated tasks without too much trouble, because it has two lobes that can divide responsibility equally between the two. Adding a third task, however, can overwhelm the frontal cortex and increase the number of mistakes you make.

You’re Not Good At It

Yes, you.

You may think you’re a master multitasker, but according to a 2013 University of Utah study, that probably means you’re actually among the worst.

The research focused specifically on cell phone use behind the wheel, and it found that people who scored highest on multitasking tests do not frequently engage in simultaneous driving and cell phone use—probably because they can better focus on one thing at a time. Those who do talk and drive regularly, however, scored worse on the tests even though most described themselves as having above-average multitasking skills.

Focus and Slow Down – To Speed Up

When your set down to work on a project or complete a task, resist the urge to multitask. Here are some tips:

  • Turn off your email.
  • Silence your phone.
  • Close/Minimize unneeded program windows on your computer.

Most importantly, fully engage in what you’re doing, complete it or get to your planned stopping point, and then move on to the next task or project. Chances are you’ll get more done, better, and in less time overall.

 

 

Let Your Students Have a Do-Over

By Alec Fehl, author of Labyrinth Learning’s Microsoft® PowerPoint® 2016 Essentials and Your Digital Foundation

Learning to Walk

Do you remember learning to walk? Neither do I. Perhaps it went something like this:

Tried to stand up. Fell down. Tried to stand up. Fell down again. Did this for several days. Was finally able to stand. Tried to take a step. Fell down. Tried another step. Fell down. Bumped my head. Cried a little. Tried another step. Woo-hoo! Did it! Tried a second step. Fell down. Repeated process until I walked.

That may not be the exact sequence, but I bet it’s close. I learned by getting a lot of do-overs, and I know this didn’t happen:

Tried to stand up. Fell down and said, “Oh well…I’ll just try to move on to running.”

Why a Do-Over?

Do your students get one chance at an assignment, receive a grade, and then move on to the next assignment? Most of my students worked that way. Get a C and never look back. My students would fail to master concepts if their end goal was simply a grade.

How do educators address this?

With the current education system, we must find a way to balance facilitating learning with the administrative requirement of assessing, tracking, and rating progress.

I’ve had success in my classes by offering “virtually unlimited do-overs.”

How to Do a Do-Over

To begin, I give assignments with an initial due date. I assess these initial submissions and give detailed feedback, commenting on what’s good and what needs improvement or completion. Here’s the kicker: If I leave feedback, the initial grade is zero. Rather than give a letter grade or percentage, I label the assignment “complete” or “not complete.” My feedback indicates exactly what’s needed for me to consider the work complete.

And my feedback comes with a 48-hour deadline extension. They resubmit within the timeframe and the process repeats: They get more feedback, a “not complete” rating, and another 48 hours to work. This continues until the student either completes the assignment (100%) or misses a deadline and the incomplete rating (0%) sticks.

Benefits of Giving Do-Overs

  • I focus less on determining a grade and more on giving relevant feedback.
  • Students learn revision skills, how to accept critique, and other soft skills.
  • Students work, to some degree, at their own pace.
  • Students are motivated to improve from their mistakes, creating a mindset of lifelong learning.
  • Students benefit from formative assessment as they work through mistakes and are more likely to achieve concept/skill mastery.

While this may not be the perfect system for every discipline, I have used a more detailed version with great success in my classes for almost 30 years.

Teaching Microsoft Applications: Encourage Individuality, Encourage Experimentation

By Alex Scott, triOS College; Author of Labyrinth Learning’s Microsoft® Excel 2016 Comprehensive

Over years of using and teaching Microsoft Office programs, I’ve often wondered why there are so many ways to do the same thing. Many users are familiar with at least two methods of executing a common task like copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts or the context menu. But for new users, alternatives methods can be intimidating and difficult to remember.

Students with tablet

In my class I tell my students there are usually at least three ways to do the same thing! For example, say I want to copy the word “Microsoft” and use it in another location. I have four options:

  • Ribbon commands
  • Right-click to open the menu of commands
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Drag and drop

How do students know which method to choose?

Start Where You Are Comfortable

New Way and Old Way

New users can feel overwhelmed by these options, so focusing on one approach is a great way to start.  I tell them to focus on the method that makes most sense for them, whatever they are comfortable with. Everyone learns differently, and each student can decide what is right for them.

Experiment!

As their confidence increases, I encourage them to try different ways, to see how the task might be done easier or faster using a different method. More experienced users sometimes get into the habit of using the same method to do all tasks, so even students who are familiar with Office programs can benefit from trying new techniques.

Implement Methods That Increase Productivity

In the work world it isn’t just about getting the work done, it’s also about getting things done quickly and efficiently, using the best method possible.

I’ve noticed patterns when I use certain methods. When I was writing my Excel textbook, a big part of the work was using Word to format and edit the content I drafted. I found that when I made a simple change – using shortcuts for copying and formatting – my time was drastically decreased!

Even as an advanced user, I find myself going back to the Ribbon—even for tasks that would be accomplished more quickly using the mouse or keyboard. The key is to know as many different methods as possible, and to remind yourself to look for an alternative approach to complete a task instead of always doing things the same way.

The best way to do something isn’t necessarily the way you’ve done it in the past, and methods that work for some situations aren’t always the best for others.

Be willing to experiment and you will gain productivity!