Friday, March 26, 2010


Having taught at one school for 35 years, I don't have a broad perspective on the subject of procrastination. But I observe that procrastinating has become a deeply embedded part of my school's culture-- students and adults are rather notorious for waiting until the last minute.

Why blog about such a mundane subject at the Drive-thru? Because multimedia and procrastination are a very bad mix.

I'm thinking of a student group that had all sorts of interesting ideas for expressing information about "equality under the law" on a wiki. They started plans for doing interviews with experts and creating a dramatic enactments on video. None of these came to fruition. They severely underestimated the logistics for achieving their best ideas. Appointments were postponed, technical complications were unanticipated.

Now, before you chalk this up to immaturity, consider this. I've had two academic departments at school approach me about the possibility of helping with video presentation. Cool. I'm glad they see that video can be an attention grabber. But I don't think they appreciate the logistics of making something good. Anyone can turn on a camera. But certainly they don't want to ad lib information about their departments. Who's going to story board this? How may takes will they need? I'm willing to edit their best takes, but not the night before the presentation. As I've warned them, editing is time intensive if you care about production standards.

I'm guessing that at least one of these adult groups goes belly-up with the multimedia. Likely cause of death? Procrastination.

"07072007012" Flickr Creative Commons Photo by petemaskreplica


WillKnott said...

That school sounds familiar. Students brag, even to teachers, about how long they have put off assignments and then complain that they are stressed. Then some teachers and administrators wonder why we are giving them so much work.

As for teachers, well what they are trying to do is a bit more difficult than what they used to do: word searches, finding lesson plans off the internet at the last minute.

Larry Baker said...

Too true, WillKnott. In the case of multimedia there is also the hazy notion that someone else pull it all together.

Vicky said...

I absolutely agree that procrastination is a very BAD idea when it comes to presentations and video related projects, because those are ridiculously time intensive.
However, (and this could just be me) some of my best papers (analyses included!!) were written the night before. I'm not sure if I'm just very strange in that regard, but I really do write better papers under time pressure than if i have massive amounts of time to revise them. And that pattern has continued in college. My 9 page final history paper was written the night before it was due and it received an A.
I could just be strange and work better under pressure though, so I never recommend this strategy to anyone.

But I definitely agree that waiting until the last minute to do something like editing a powerpoint or video will just lead to frustration, sleepless nights, and massive quantities of caffeine.

Larry Baker said...

Thanks for the comment, Vicky. I know exactly what you mean. I think that in the instances I cited, the individuals underestimated the planning involved or were doing some magical thinking in terms of someone sweeping in at the last second and pulling everything together.

Bridget O'Donnell said...

While my best papers and exam preparation have come from procrastination, I'm not necessarily proud of it. I sometimes wonder what could have been if I hadn't put so many of these projects off until the last minute.

And I completely agree with you that multimedia projects need to be started far in advance. I learned this from doing video and interactive graphics at the campus paper. I'll never forget the nightmare that was the newsroom during the 2008 Presidential election. I underestimated the amount of coding I'd need to be doing for an interactive Flash graphic on statewide election results and figured I'd be able to complete it by 3 or 4 am at the latest. I started the template the day before the election, but put off the most important parts of the graphic until the next night. I figured filling in the results as they came in wouldn't take too long.

Boy was I wrong. When I finally left the building at 8:30 am—nearly 12 hours after the mainstream media called it for Obama—I realized my mistake. Had I started a few days earlier and tackled the more difficult stuff before the official tallies, I would've been able to foresee any coding issues I might have and avoid them as the live results were coming in. Instead, I was running into tons of debugging issues until 6 am and had to pull an all-nighter to complete it. And I had a quiz in my 9 am class. That was not a fun day.

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