For the past week, my data collection focused on the big picture of my learning, providing additional contexts such as work and personal life. This week, I decided to go more microscopic and manually record the distractions I experienced while reading the Bulger (2016) paper and the Tsai, Perrotta & Gasevic (2020) paper.
The way I recorded distractions was similar to having a time sheet, where I logged the time I started reading the paper concerned. While reading, I also recorded the timepoints whenever I perceived I I got distracted. Whenever the distraction caused me to consciously put down the paper and did something else, I logged the times at which I put down and pick up the paper, and also record some qualitative details about the distraction (or rather, “derailment”). The distractions were categorised based on their nature (work-related, non-work-related, etc.).
I felt my scientist self also prompted me to experiment a bit in this data collection exercise. I have tried multiple times to get used to reading journal articles on electronic devices, as opposed to printing them out. I tried this during IDEL’s week 1 but then I fell miserably. The “experimental conditions” were as followed:
Bulger (2016): reading on OneNote with my hybrid laptop, sitting on my bed
Tsai, Perrotta & Gasevic (2020): reading on printed copy, sitting on my bed
However there were also limitations to this experiment: (1) Bulger (2016) was significantly longer than Tsai, Perrotta & Gasevic (2020); (2) I started reading Tsai, Perrotta & Gasevic (2020) much later than Bulger (2016) despite being on a different day.
The design rationale of the visualisation is based on the literal meaning of “distraction” – which is the phenomenon of my attention being taken away from what I was trying to do (Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries). Hence I used a time axis to symbolise the task at hand, and visualised my distractions as a curly line that points out from the time axis (i.e. my thought leaving the task at hand) and gets dragged back towards the axis (i.e. regaining attention on the task at hand). I also used icon as proxies for qualitative details about my derailments.
A common pattern is that I tend to have a cluster of distractions at the beginning of starting a task. It also shows that I experienced more derailment in reading Bulger (2016), including having to make a note of the reference I located for my manuscript, as well as deciding to send Bulger (2016) to my work colleagues.
In contrast, I experienced less derailment while reading Tsai, Perrotta & Gasevic (2020). This is likely caused by my being conscious of data being recorded, and I was working harder to block out distracting thoughts. Also towards the end I dozed off. This may suggest reading at 11pm would be counterproductive.
Overall, I have used this week’s data collection and visualisation exercise to reflect on my learning behaviour and attempt to derive insights from it. It taught me to expect distraction clusters at the start of a task, and hence additional effort is needed at the beginning of a task so as to make sure the task can be completed.