Beware of distractions

In our recent Learning Futures Festival 2011: Follow the Sun presentation (click here for Adobe Connect recording), one of my colleagues, Alison Ewing, raised “healthy question” about technologies (starting at 32 minutes into the recording). One comment, tied directly to my section, included Twitter. She spoke of the potential of Twitter and other technologies to “lead me [her] down avenues which are interesting but distracting, and take me away from actually what I want to be doing, what I should be doing….” Well, Ali, that makes a lot of sense.

The hours in a day are finite, and there are competing demands. Ali finds that Twitter and other technologies can be helpful, as I wholeheartedly agree, but we concur we must be careful to avoid the drain on time. It is easy to follow a link and delve into a new direction. Also, I’m not sure how many times I have seen a question asked that has caused me to do a little searching to provide an answer, be it education, community, or work related. It is good to do, and others respond to our questions or discussions. But, there are times to turn off and focus.

Working on my master’s degree a number of years ago (late 90s), the very early hours of the morning were best for uninterrupted study. With family sleeping and the telephone silent, I was assured that the only thing coming between me and the readings was the desire to nap. True, I had a computer and online communications, but the level of social media that we have today was not happening.

Now, while I still love the early morning studies, I can be sure that emails or other messages await me, and there is someone online with whom to connect. An outstanding question may await an answer or comment. Of course, this continues throughout the day and distractions are magnified when others are up, the telephone rings, and family asks for attention because I am working and studying from home. Some seem to do well with constant switching between activities, but that is not me.

I often crave more time to read, and I know I must make concerted efforts to have uninterrupted hours. Perhaps this means letting a call or two go to voice mail or posting a sign indicating I am busy. I have removed the data from my mobile telephone, so I no longer see constant emails.

Getting away from email, sometimes for hours, I have discovered something. There is never a message needing a response that could not wait. If something is really urgent, I have my telephone with call display. If I am away from my home office for any length of time, I likely have my computer and mobile Internet for when I do need/want to ‘check in.’  My (slightly) adult son says I shouldn’t spend so much time at home if I want to reduce his calls for attention, so more mobile I will be if it will allow more focus!

If you are studying, what do you do to manage your reading or time for other assignments? Are you finding enough hours to do the amount of reading you plan?

A.E. (Tony) Ratcliffe
PhD Research Student, BDRA

I followed the sun

The Learning Futures Festival Online 2011 was titled, “Follow the Sun,” and billed as, “Three countries, three time zones, a non-stop global e-learning conference.” It was hosted by the Beyond Distance Research Alliance of the University of Leicester and the Australian Digital Futures Institute of the University of Southern Queensland.

The format was a different approach. Starting in the UK at 09:00 (British Summer Time) and running for 8 hours, moderation was then handed over for another 8 hours to the North American Team in Seattle, and then for a further 8 hours to the team in Toowoomba, Australia. The cycle then repeated for another 24-hour period. From Canada, my plan was to catch as much as I could with naps along the way. Looking back at the programme, I attended more in the UK and North American sessions, finding other demands for my time and a need for sleep in our evening hours while Australia was on. Fortunately, the sessions were recorded, and I can return to those I missed or wish to re-watch.

The good news for many whom could not participate is that the recorded sessions are now available to watch without charge, through the “Follow the Sun” link above.

Having attended many conferences, physically and online, this was the first at which I presented. I had the pleasure of working with PhD student colleagues from the BDRA, Brenda, Ali, and Natalia, to deliver, “PhD Students Following the Sun: How PhD Students Use and Perceive Technologies.” Hopefully this will be there first of many more, whether personally or in a group. While my part was about how I, and others, use Twitter for a weekly ‘phdchat’ discussion, I look forward to sharing about my research area in future presentations.

A special thanks to all whom made the conference come together and run smoothly. Next year will be my turn to step up and assist.

A.E. (Tony) Ratcliffe
PhD Research Student, BDRA

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 685 other followers

%d bloggers like this: