How to Minimise Digital Distractions
Classroom Tips November 29th 2019
Few ideas capture the split attention span of modern students like these, and educators are struggling to find new ways to coax attention and care away from mobile devices and back into the classroom for good.
Stopping it at the door - One enterprising teacher suggests hanging a clear shoe-organising door sheet on the classroom wall and labelling each pocket with a student's name. Before each class, instruct the students to place their phone in the corresponding pocket, with any "empty" pockets docked participation points for the day. While this is still technically a voluntary step, many students will feel the pull of (positive!) peer pressure and follow suit to keep their participation points.
Know thy enemy - On the opposite end of the spectrum, other educators have given in to the idea that students will continue to sneak their cell phones into class no matter what. These teachers offer extra credit points for students to send hashtagged #answers to a school account during class time, actually embracing social media engagement as part of the active lesson. This approach would need to be discussed with both parents and school officials beforehand for safety considerations, but it's a unique way to approach students on their own turf, and one that may cut through the "noise" of restrictions.
Frequent "Brain Breaks" - The attention span of the average student behind the school desk wanes in consistency, if not entirely, as a lesson goes on. Implementing breaks of 5 to 10 minutes every half hour or so will enable students to check messages, get their digital "fix" out of their system and return to their school desks ready to learn. The age of the students and general observation of the class will help educators determine the best frequency and duration of these breaks over time.
Digital devices aren't going anywhere, which means that educators will have to determine their stance on use before setting foot inside a classroom at the beginning of each year. Just like individual disruptive students or a rowdy class, leading by example and staying firm to your promises of punishment or reward will be vital, regardless of what tack you choose to take on digital distractions.