Blog Prompt #3: Learning Strategies Reaction

According to the app I use to keep track of my Pomodoro sessions, I first started using the technique 19 days ago and, on average, I’ve been working for an hour and 38 minutes each day. During these 19 days, I’ve only skipped four days and two of them were because I was out of town on a camping trip. So, overall, I’d say I was pretty successful at implementing the Pomodoro technique.

When starting off, my only motivation was my need to get work done and I thought of this technique as a magical thing that would help me do so and solve all my procrastination problems. This feeling only soared after I was successful with my first Pomodoro session. However, just like with newly bought items, the appeal was gone a week later and it was harder to go on pure willpower. So, I started used the achievement and rank system that the app has to motivate me. The more work I do in a week, the higher my rank and the likelier I am to get new achievements. If I slack off, I get demoted. This worked great because of my slight obsession with collecting achievements and discovering what the higher ranks were. After another week of using the Pomodoro technique, I realized that it felt more natural to sit down when I get home, open the app, set the timer, and start doing my homework.

What also helped was using it in conjunction with Todait. Todait tells me what homework I have to do in a day to stay on track and finish a task by its due date. After completing all the work for today, it shows an achievement rate of 100% which gives me so much satisfaction since it lets me see with my own eyes that, one, I was productive with my time and, two, that I’d finished everything I had to do.

The strategy has definitely helped me to be more productive. I’ve noticed that I’m able to complete my work earlier than I used to and this has allowed me to occasionally sleep earlier too. Additionally, when I’m on the 5 and 25 minutes breaks, I feel less guilty about not working during these times because I know that I deserve these breaks. So, since it’s been quite successful thus far, I’m going to keep using the Pomodoro technique with my studies.


Blog Prompt #2: Learning Strategies or Procrastination Experiment

Summarize your chosen strategy and explain why you picked it or explain your procrastination or multitasking problem and explain why you want to fix it.

I always feel like I never have enough time to finish my homework. Most nights are spent staying up past midnight either cramming for a test in nine hours, finishing off the last few paragraphs AKA my entire essay that’s due the next day, or getting caught up playing games and watching videos. Every time this happens, I think to myself “why didn’t I let myself sleep earlier?” Some nights, I even notice that it’s 10:00PM and I think “oh hey, it’s the perfect time to sleep. I’ll just finish up and head to bed.” Then, by the time I do finish up, it’s 12:03AM and I’m reflecting on all my life choices. At one point, the question became “why can’t I let myself sleep earlier?” I tell myself that it couldn’t be helped, I just had too much homework that day, there wasn’t enough time. But I know the truth. I’m just lying to myself so that I can feel better. The real reason why I always end up sleeping late is because I procrastinate. I don’t start working until around 10:00PM which, as I mentioned earlier, is when I start “finishing up” my work. I decided that this has to stop… but how?

The answer came to me during a Learning Strategy presentation: the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique is based on a work and reward system. You work for 25 minutes and then you take a break for 5 minutes and that’s one session. After four sessions, you take a 25 minutes break. That day, when I got home, I decided to test it. I didn’t think it would be too useful but trying something is better than doing nothing. I didn’t have a Pomodoro timer at home so I set a 25 minute timer on my phone using Forest. The thing about me is, even though I struggle with procrastination, I actually have pretty good self-control. If I know for sure I shouldn’t be doing something, then I won’t do it. If it’s not definite, then I’ll waver. Since I knew I wasn’t supposed to do anything but work in those 25 minutes, I was able to fully concentrate on finishing my homework. One session became two, which became three, and before I knew it, I’d finished all my homework. It wasn’t even 7:00PM yet! So, because of how effective it turned out to be, the Pomodoro technique is my chosen strategy.

Explain how you will implement the strategy – be as specific as possible

Everyday after school, I’ll set up my work space so that I have all the homework I need to do nearby. This is so that when I’m done one thing, I can easily switch to another without breaking my concentration. Then, when I sit down in front of my laptop and ready to work, I’ll set up the timer and start focusing. I’ll settle down and start the timer within one hour after coming home. This should be enough time to do so since any longer and I might start telling myself, I have “all day” to finish my homework. During the breaks, I’ll check off the tasks I’ve finished, read the notifications on my phone, and do anything else that needs to be done that isn’t work related. Then I’ll complete as many sessions as is required for me to finish all my homework that day and feel satisfied and productive.

What is your end goal? How will you know the strategy works for you?

My end goal is to turn this into a habit. Once I am able to complete at least one session a day for a month straight, and only skip a day every two weeks, I’d have reached my goal. At this time, it also shouldn’t feel like it requires an effort to complete. The first time I succeeded in using the technique, I felt a wave of relief and happiness wash over me. When I was playing games after, I didn’t feel as heavy as I normally did. It’s like I was free for the first time in a long while from the cage of procrastination. I still didn’t end up sleeping early but hopefully I’ll get there some day. I feel that just experiencing that sensation of being productive is a good way to know that the strategy is working. In the long-term, if I feel that I am less stressed overall, and that it has helped me to develop healthier sleeping habits, then I would know for sure that it’s working.

What are your critical moves?

My critical moves would be to convince myself to do my homework and actually start the timer. As soon as the timer is going, I’d feel compelled to concentrate on doing my homework and it would be fine. Like I said earlier, to help with this, I’ll give myself one hour at the max to get ready to work. I’ll also add reminders onto my phone to help get me started on doing my homework.

How will you shrink the change?

I’ll start off gradually, doing 20 minutes of work and 10 minutes of break. Additionally, I’ll let myself lapse three times in a week – but not two days in a row. The following week, I’ll increase the work period to 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break with two lapses allowed. Next, it’ll become one lapse per week, and then one lapse every two weeks. This should give me enough time to get used to working with the Pomodoro technique.

How will you tweak the environment?

Before I start a session, I’ll have all the homework that I plan on working during that session nearby so that I am able to easily transition between tasks without wasting much time. This does make my desk a little cluttered but, like I mentioned before, I have fairly good self-control so I am still able to focus on my work. Additionally, with all the work I plan on doing nearby, I get visual cues of all the homework I still have to complete which motivates me to work harder and get all my work done.

I would remove my electronics and laptop but more often than not, I need them to do my work. I use my phone for the Pomodoro timer and I use my laptop to type up documents, search the definition of words, and check if my equation is correct. However, I tweak my environment here by trying to minimize the chances of me straying to a game.

On my phone, using Forest, I am able to prevent myself from accessing any app that doesn’t have to do with my work. When the timer is going, a tree is growing and this tree is used to track my progress. If I enter a game app while my tree is growing, Forest can sense it and it would kill the tree. Having a beautiful forest of trees is an aesthetic that is able to keep me motivated while working. Additionally, the screen shows messages such as “Don’t look at me”, “Stop Phubbing”, and “Get to work” that also encourage me to keep working.

As for my laptop, I’m the kind of person that always has 20 tabs open because they’re all very, very important. Extremely important, I assure you. However, since hardly any of them are related to my homework, they tend to be pretty distracting. Luckily for me, there’s a feature on Windows 10 that allows for multiple virtual desktops. The tabs stored in the browsers on each desktop is different. So, this means that I can keep my 20 tabs AND work without being distracted by them by using a desktop especially for working. Sure, there are other ways of handling this, such as opening another browser, but the separate desktop helps to give a more defined distinction between work and play and allows me to focus better.

Blog Prompt #1: Technology and 21st Century Learning

Do you feel school is preparing you adequately for your future. Why or why not?

Overall, I don’t feel like school is preparing me well enough for my future. Yes, it does help since I was able to learn how to code, explore my interest in computer science, and get actual work experience through co-op. All of which, as an aspiring computer programmer, is invaluable. However, when it comes to other aspects of my future such as buying a house, paying taxes, voting, cooking, using the healthcare system, or even something as seemingly simple as saving money, school has taught me nothing. Some people equate life after school to being thrown out into the wild and having to fend for yourself against the unknown dangers there. I can say honestly that, right now, that’s exactly what it seems like to me as well.

How do you personally use technology to learn?

I use technology to learn in a variety of ways. If I don’t feel like taking my textbook home, I can just take pictures of the pages I have to read and the questions I have to do and look over them anytime and anywhere I want. Plus, using the draw feature on a photo editor, I am able to jot down notes and answer questions as well. Technology is especially helpful with math. Using applications such as Desmos, Derivative Calculator, and Wolfram Alpha, I can check my answers, visualize the graph or see the steps involved, and fully understand, on my own, how to solve the problem.

Do classes that use more technology appeal to you? Is it easier for you to learn the content?

This mostly depends on how the technology is used. If the teacher only uses technology to read sentences off a PowerPoint, it would not be very appealing and it definitely would not make it easier for me to learn the content. On the other hand, if the technology used is to show us interesting and relevant videos, play a game of Kahoot! to help solidify ideas, or to present information in a way that helps us to understand and visualize a concept better, the class would be much more exciting and I would find it way easier to learn. If the class were about learning technology though, I would be very interested and my interest would help immensly to make it easier for me to learn in that class.

Does it matter to you if a teacher uses technology in class? Why or why not?

As a preference, I would want a teacher to use technology since this usually means a teacher website, teaching from a PowerPoint, or using the SMARTBoard to teach. With a teacher website, I would be able to access relevant links and check what I have for homework more easily. When teaching from a PowerPoint, if it is well made, it means I can actually see what I have to copy down even from the back of the room. Or, I can view the PowerPoint from my phone if the teacher posted a link to it on their website. With a SMARTBoard, similarly to the PowerPoint, anything that the teacher writes can be seen from far away. It also allows the teacher to draw diagrams with different coloured markers that can help to differentiate parts of the diagram.

What technology would you like to see teachers use that is not currently being used? Why did you choose that technology?

A technology that I’d like to see be used is Augmented Reality. AR allows users to see an additional layer of information on top of what they see in reality. This means that students could look at a picture of a cat, for example, in the textbook and, with AR, see a 3D model of a cat that appears. They’d be able to rotate the model to see the cat from all angles and zoom in and out. Additionally, they’d be able to change what type of cat they are seeing or change what animal they are seeing. This would all depend on how it is implemented. Alternatively, students could look at a picture of Vimy Ridge in a History textbook and it could transition into a video explaining the significance of the battle. We would be able to watch a video while still looking at the textbook! Currently, it is not feasible to introduce AR into classrooms due to the cost of the wearable devices. The only AR we’d be able to use is with apps on our phones and they aren’t really of the greatest quality right now. They also require a code on a paper to activate which makes it difficult to incorporate into classrooms. Even so, one day, I want it to become a reality – an augmented reality.

If you want to check out what I meant with the AR cat model, here’s a video of what I was imagining except with shoes and they’re using a smartphone to view the AR instead of a wearable device.