11 tabs too many?

This week, Andrew, Nancy, Jayme, Roxanne, and Ashley shared an excellent presentation about productivity and presentation tools. They shared a wide variety of tools throughout their presentation – including the typewriter, the personal computer, the evolution of counting from the abacus to the mechanical calculators, spreadsheet tools, Microsoft Powerpoint, Google suite of apps, Screencast-O-Matic, newer apps like Powtoon, the internet as a whole, and e-mail. It was incredibly thorough and well done – bravo team!

They have challenged us this week to think about the following video and the idea of multi-tasking – is it a myth? Is the Internet making it more difficult to do our work than ever before? It is really a productivity tool, or simply a series of endless distractions?

After watching this video, I was feeling as though he was speaking directly to me and what I do on a regular basis… To prove this, I took a screenshot of my computer after I watched the video.



Although not a great quality, this was my computer screen while I was watching the video. I had two different types of internet browsers open; I prefer Google Chrome, but Internet Explorer is the default browser on our Regina Public School computers, so whenever I click on a link through e-mail, it automatically opens in Explorer. Several tabs were open in each of these browsers – although, to be honest, I usually have many more open. I had my Outlook open – which is rarely closed, including on weekends. Multiple Word Documents were open (11 to be specific), as was my Gradebook for inputting student grades. Admittedly, I also had a USB stick plugged into my computer – which has been plugged in for days – because the Word Documents are saved on this USB stick and I am unsure which ones I actually want to use. Finally, the TV was also on in the background as I was binge-watching a new series on Netflix.

All in all, I was definitely trying to multi-task, and, in the end, I really got nothing done.

This is truly my everyday life. Every time I open my computer, be it at the start of the day or on my prep, I take about 10 minutes to go through all my tabs and open documents. I close nothing. In fact, I usually open more tabs – things suggested through my e-mails (which themselves can decrease productivity), tabs that I need for my classes, etc. By the time third period hits, I have a ridiculous amount of things open on my computer, and it has become a running gag in my Math class. My students always remark: Even more tabs than yesterday, Madame, really? Whoa, Madame, you only have like 12 tabs open today – good work! 

Doing simply one thing, to be fully present on the internet, is a very rare thing – The Atlantic

Does this really increase my productivity? Well… no. No it doesn’t. Quite the opposite, actually, because I am always so divided with my attention and with my mind. I just have a hard time letting go of my tabs – like he says in the video, it is like breaking up with my Internet, breaking up with my ideas, and breaking up with my possibilities. Taking the first step towards this break-up will be a breakthrough towards more productive work – I hope. There are times when I need to restart my computer for updates or because my Internet suddenly doesn’t work anymore, and although I get frustrated because I have to close all my tabs, it is actually quite freeing. To open up my computer after a reboot and have a fresh start (that, really, lasts a maximum of thirty minutes) is refreshing.

Quite ironically, a quick google search will deliver many articles explaining how you can waste less time on the Internet – from 7 Ways to Avoid Distraction and Increase Productivity, to 3 Distracting Internet Habits that Kill Your Productivity, to How to Actually Stop Wasting Time on the Internet. These sites actually suggest apps – like StayFocusd, FocalFilter, ColdTurkey, and SelfControl – that can block sites that decrease productivity, which are great, of course. These are great and very helpful, but I think it increases our dependency on technology and Internet. I think we need to learn as a society how to do this on our own, how to manage our distractions, and how to make active decisions to ‘single-task’ instead of failing at ‘multi-tasking’.


Photo Credit: Robin Hutton Flickr via Compfight cc

Therefore, going back to the question posed by our team, is the Internet a productivity tool, or rather an anti-productivity tool? In my opinion – and through my personal experience – I think it all comes down to how you use it. If you are like me, with multiple tabs open at once, you are not using the Internet as the productive tool that it can be. It can expedite research and it can help make learning and teaching more productive. Tools like Google classroom (I know, you may be sick of me constantly touting the beauty of this) can enhance learning and productivity in the classroom. Just yesterday, students that have rarely used Google classroom noted how convenient and productive it is. This tool would not be possible without the Internet.

I think the importance is educating students – and adults – how to use the Internet to be productive. Just like Tyson and Heidi said in their posts, I think balance is key, and we need to teach students and adults how to balance the Internet. Like any tool, it can be misused. When we try to accomplish too much, and have too many tabs open, we accomplish little. If we simplify our Internet use, it can be productive. Tabless Thursdays are a start, but we should eventually increase this to One-Tab Tuesdays (yes, in conjunction with Taco Tuesdays), and then do this every day.

Tools can increase productivity, but they can increase other, negative aspects, if they are misused. This is true for many tools, the Internet being no exception.

I know that I get distracted constantly by the Internet – and I’m not one to spend time on social media. How about you? Does the Internet help you increase your productivity or decrease it? What would you encourage students and adults to do so they use this tool more productively? What do we need to do as a a society to see this shift within everyone as a whole?


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3 Responses to 11 tabs too many?

  1. kristagates1 says:

    Thanks for sharing Liz. I do agree it was a great presentation from our colleagues on the variety of productivity tools that we have used and that we are currently using.
    The unfortunate part is, technology is taking over the productivity at home and at the workplace. It’s all about the balance.
    I do believe that with students and our own children, we need to enforce rules of when to take a break from technology. This will in end hopefully make us all more productive in our daily home and work lives.


  2. Luke Braun says:

    Good points Liz. I agree with what Krista shared here with regard to modelling appropriate use of internet tools. I often tell students about the time my 2 year old basically told me off because I was looking at my phone while she was trying to tell me something. I was extremely humbled that’s for sure. Here is an old Malien proverb that was said often when I was young and I think it applies to this topic. “Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand.” BTW, Chrome’s 1Tab is a great tool for managing multiple tabs in the browser.


  3. asingh2 says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Liz! I really laughed out loud when you shared that your students give you a hard time about how many tabs you have open! I too am guilty of having countless tabs open at any given point of the day – to make matters worse, I routinely work off of two different computers throughout my day, this adds to the chaos (and amount of tabs open) daily. I think after this week and reading everyone’s posts about how many tabs they have open, I may have to start limiting myself to 5, and gradually drop back!


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