Distraction, Distraction, Distraction!

Put the Tech AwayI know this is not at all a revolutionary statement, but yes, technology in the classroom is very much a hot topic within today’s educational milieu. For some teachers, technology truly provides an opportunity for their professional learning and teaching practice to expand and evolve. For others, technology, especially, mobile tools, such as smartphones and tablets, present tangible opportunities for students to socialize, casually surf online, play games and ultimately and importantly can be distracted from the learning in the classroom. Such “distractions from learning” (and I say this loosely) often becomes the epicenter for debate surrounding Bring Your Device policies and everyday student accessibility to such tools.

As noted in the article titled “The Age of Distraction: Getting students to Put Away their Phones and Focus on Learning” by Dr. Maryellen Weimer,  academic studies focused on the student use of technology suggest limitations in viability.  Dr. Weimer refers to a series of educational studies that concludes that “students who use their mobile phones during class lectures tend to write down less information, recall less information, and perform worse on a multiple-choice test than those students who abstain from using their mobile phones during class.”  Such a conclusion, whether relevant to post-secondary or the high school experience, should be discussed not within the framework of distraction but rather engagement. Dr. Wiemer’s writing suggests that the overall use of technology is bad – and that students should be addressed with research that shows that tech use is limiting. I ask:  have students encountered limited success with the use of their technology because of technology itself or the relationship between technology and the learning space? Basically, are student disengaged in the learning and thus their access to technology provides them with opportunities to live outside of the classroom or lecture hall?

The concern over the relationship between technology and the classroom should not be about distraction but rather engagement. Distraction in classroom existed well before technology – passing notes have now been replaced by texted. Thus, are educators leveraging students’ access to technology to provoke new thinking, to be creative and to construct opportunities to demonstrate and showcase learning? Especially in post-secondary where the study took place, are academics provided with professional learning that support their “teaching.” It all comes down to design and implementation.

In the end, it really isn’t a question or whether not students are distracted but importantly if they are authentically engaged.

You can find Dr. Wiemer’s article here:

The Age of Distraction: Getting Students to Put Away Their Phones and Focus on Learning 

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