Thursday, 14 January 2016

Dealing with Digital Distractions in the classroom

The following is an outline of a presentation I gave to our High School staff, unpacking the issue of digital distraction in the classroom. The aim of the session was to again reflect what we can do as teachers to mitigate some of the issues and reduce scope for temptation. An eloquent blog post from our Head of Campus, Frazer Cairns also delves into the issue from a parent perspective.



 
The evidence from the presentation comes from a student focus group I ran with 16 Grade 11 students, to uncover some of the issues. Students are always surprisingly frank when you ask them to reflect about the issue of distractions and what teachers do to in lessons to either lessen or increase the temptation of checking social media updates and notifications. The following are notes from the class focus group (full transcript available here)

What are the main distractions at school?

Facebook, 9GAG, Instagram, Music, Email, my phone buzzing, Snapchat, Random articles, Facebook messenger, Social media, Seeing others being distracted, Tetris, Facebook messenger, Tumblr

When teachers did these things or activities I am more tempted and distracted by technology...

  • Researching something online, 
  • Long lectures, long presentations, 
  • Allowing students to use earphones, 
  • When a teacher talks for a long time without interaction or activities, 
  • Independent work on essays, 
  • When the subject isn’t engaging for me, I tend to be more distracted, 
  • When set individual work in class, that can be completed for homework.

When teachers did these things or activities I am less tempted and distracted by technology...
  • Any activities and group work which forces use to be engaged as a whole class, 
  • Uses online quizzes (Kahoot, Socrative); 
  • Teachers telling us to close computer lids, 
  • asking us to take notes by hand, 
  • when the topic is very complicated or interesting, 
  • interactive classroom activities, 
  • Teacher uses a range of questioning strategies (mini-whiteboards, exit cards, name cards) 
  • Is engaging, humorous and interesting, 
  • Is efficient, informative and carries the class at a good pace. 
  • Give a deadline for the end of class, 
  • Don’t allow computers unless for specific reason, 
  • Teacher moves around the classroom and circulates to check on screens.
My main take away point is that we need to be considerate and intentional in our planning to hopefully mitigate some of the potential distractions. When using two common pedagogies, the whole class lecture approach and setting independent work when could explore using any of the following ideas.