Week 2.1: Productivity Suites

As I watched the video about “Tab-less Thursday” it was like @jameshamblin was watching me at work.  As he described working on his paper, looking for something to inspire his writing and ending up writing a note to his ex-girlfriend the tangential evolution of his tabs opening each new tab, with a healthy balance of curiosity and procrastination, made me feel deeply seen!  I know there are times where I have so much going on, I forget what my original task was.  In fact, this past year brought that even more to light because with Remote and Hybrid learning it felt like I was always “on and available”.  One such example from a typical day- while preparing a lesson plan a student would message me on Microsoft teams about a mark.  I’d open up Moodle (the LMS I utilize in my classes) to reference the assignment and the marking scheme to provide a reason why, then I’d open up MSS (our grading program) to ensure the mark entered there was the same mark that was calculated on Moodle. I would then peruse through the student’s assignment and my evaluation and comments.  Finally, I’d reply to the student about their inquiry about their mark.  While this was happening, three emails would come in with assignments that needed to be marked, along with a fourth email from a parent wondering if I had a chance to mark their child’s NHI (one of the three previous emails) as this assignment would increase their mark to passing.  I would reply to the parent that I just got the assignment and would get it marked ASAP.  I would mark said assignment, provide feedback, enter the mark, email the parent and include the student to say hooray (or something equally as professional) back to passing and a friendly reminder to finish items a, b, c to continue to increase mark and showcase learning.  Parent would reply back with a thank you and support of getting more work handed in.  Finally, after all of that, I would sit there staring at my screen wondering what I was originally working on. Oh yeah, an assignment, what class is that for again. . . 

I attribute the above description to those days where you arrive home and don’t remember the drive.  I may have just run several red lights. . . or maybe not. I am here. I don’t hear sirens, so I’m sure it is fine! But in reality, multi-tasking and being pulled in all directions certainly impacts my work, my attention, and also my efficiency.  With that being said, I cannot imagine not utilizing technology and specifically Productivity Suites in my classroom.  I truly believe in Productivity suites, but I think it is a double edge sword where I must also be aware of the ways in which they can pull my focus.  And if that is happening to me, I am certain it is happening to students.

Listening to the groups presentation about Productivity suites paired with this video reminds me that I have to make active choices about what to use, when to use, how to be available and also how to set boundaries.  This is not only going to help my efficiency and mental well-being, but it will also model to my students how to interact with the programs available, while being mindful of the task at hand.  When looking at the Pedagogical advantages, there are many benefits to Productivity suites in classrooms

  • Collaboration
  • Access to material (at home, at school, away on a trip. . . it’s always there!)
  • Flexibility of programs
  • Learning real world examples of digital citizenship in action. 

In the article Schools Leverage Apps and Easy to manage Suites of learning tools, Bengfort speaks about the collaboration and consistency that Productivity suites offer students in school.  Bengfort goes onto say that not only is it consistent, but that “A baseline suite of tools adapts, allowing users to link in other tools as needed while ensuring core functionality isn’t lost”.  I have noticed that in my teaching career that students are showing that consistency and collaboration in their final products.  Often, I have students showing me how they were able to use a tool that is provided by the school division to further enhance their work, interact with peers, engage with content.  Thus, I feel that productivity suites are useful, but it is important to not only teach content, but life skills about management and focus.

Although I see the benefits of Productivity Suites in schools, another downfall of these productivity suites beyond pulling focus is when certain programs are the only ones accessible.  Some students would prefer a different program, so they end up working on it at home.  Others do not have access to technology at home, so they are limited in their ability to enhance or even work on the task.  Add in the digital divide that was very much shown during COVID 19, and teachers are not only dealing with teaching of content, but also of supporting diverse learners with unique learning styles and access to technology.  Basically, teachers are superheroes who navigate the complexities of teaching like they do all the tabs on their screens!  Like Postman alluded to in week one readings, technology come with a cost and school divisions, administrators and teachers all need to be conscious of the push and pull to make informed decisions that best serve student learning (Postman, 1998, pg. 1).  The presentation by Kelly, Deidre, Raquel and Allison offered great insight into the evolution of technology, the ways in which it supports different learning theories, and also the positives and challenges of it.  They offered a great opportunity for teachers to discern when and how to use productivity suites and make informed and intentional decisions.

Part of making decisions about how/when/why to utilize Productivity Suites means understanding the cost and analyzing when it is appropriate to use.  Bates illustrated this point of making informed decisions and the power of effective educators.  Bates states: “Good teachers usually have an arsenal of tools, methods and approaches that they can draw on, depending on the circumstances. Also teachers and instructors will differ over what constitutes good teaching, depending on their understandings of what knowledge is, what matters most in learning, and their priorities in terms of desirable learning outcomes” (Bates, 2015, 2.1).

Source: Productivity Suites Presentation

I think it is incredibly important to incorporate productivity suites in the classroom, but like all things, it is important to balance how, when and why.  It is critical to illustrate what “concentration” looks like in action.  One such interesting fact that Blake Thorne shares in his Blog is that It takes an average of about 25 minutes (23 minutes and 15 seconds, to be exact) to return to the original task after an interruption. Multiple studies confirm this.  I can confirm that is the case for me with the first example I gave of a daily occurrence in 21st century teaching.  So am I, or my students more productive?  Yes.  Are we also incredibly distracted? Yes!  Like all things it is a balancing act and an opportunity to further the lesson beyond the content and into real world examples of figuring out how to balance between productivity and distraction.  Now I will close my 6 tabs that are currently open and respond to the 8 text messages I missed while writing this.  The fight goes on!

Source: bakerclub.co

4 thoughts on “Week 2.1: Productivity Suites

  1. I appreciate your point that we have to make active choices about what tools to use and also about when to be available and how to set boundaries. My sister-in-law was recently shocked and appalled that I still get my work email to my phone during the summer. But I prefer to know if I have received an email and know that I don’t have to respond to it right away. I also have some things in my calendar that I need to get reminders for during the summer, so I like keeping it on my phone. I think it’s important to recognize that each person’s boundaries and comfort levels will be different.

    Hmm, those are interesting questions about multitasking! What if someone is “good at multitasking” but struggles with procrastination? I feel like that’s where I fall lol. I think we need to provide lots of different tools and strategies so students can figure out what works best for them. I keep a colour-coded “to-do” list with deadlines so I can force myself to get tasks done. Thanks for your post and the comments!

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  2. Oh my goodness, Jacquie! Your analogy of driving home and not remembering the drive is all to real for me when I grew up out of town, would work or be out late, get into bed, and suddenly realize that I have zero recollection of the long drive I just had home. It’s like that movie Limitless, where that magic pill makes a person so productive and smart, yet the repercussions of taking them over time definitely don’t seem to make those times of productivity worth it. Gosh, why didn’t I think of that movie for my post? It’s such a good one for this topic.

    Anyways, tangent control once again. Back to productivity suites. I like how you said that it’s important to incorporate productivity suites into the classroom, but understand that there still needs to be balance. I think with productivity comes some distraction, but I think it is more dependent on the individual’s personality, motivation and determination more than anything else. Some people are really effective at multi-tasking or getting distracted, and some people truly aren’t. Thanks for that analogy, and bringing forth a movie that I should have referenced but didn’t. 🙂

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    • First of all- you are so right about Limitless. That is totally what it can feel like when there is a bunch of spinning plates! Secondly, thank you for your kind words and observations about my teaching. I do really love my job and feel so honored to walk with young adults and learn from them, and it’s cool you noticed that!

      I wonder how we manage those who are innately good at multi-tasking and those who aren’t? Should we hone in that skill set either way to teach those who can multitask balance and also give ways in which those who struggle tools in the tool kit? Do you find you do that in your spaces?

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