Technology has brought a crucial paradox into the lives of students: The same gadgets that help them complete their work are also their biggest distraction from getting work done. Over the past few years, schools have implemented computer programs and personalized learning models. In many cases, schools have even implemented Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) successfully to promote collaboration, time management, and overall completeness.
Teachers may not be able to control how students use their phones after school, but they can regulate how much these digital devices are used at school. According to a recent study, students believed that their teachers must be liable to control their technology usage in the classroom by ensuring that their devices are being used for purposes related to study only. The important thing worth mentioning here is that these same students (68 percent) said they were annoyed by the use of the phone in the classroom and labeled it as a common distraction.
Ironically, the use of technology in the classroom has become an integral part of learning. Plus, with the size of classrooms growing bigger than ever, monitoring technology has, as a practical matter, become challenging. Simply put, these distractions can make it challenging to get students to focus in the classroom when using tech to teach.
To minimize digital distractions in a classroom, here are four simple ways to get there with the help of instructional technology.
1. Digital Note Taking
Younger people are more assertive in their capability to multitask and do it more frequently. But, true, multitasking is a myth! We cannot pay attention to more than one thing simultaneously. For instance, reading a text while listening to their teacher’s instructions. Unsurprisingly, something gets missed. Laptops, smartphones, and tablets are very useful tools when taking notes. Unluckily, these digital devices for taking notes can cause digital distraction, too.
Instructional technology can help to reduce this distraction by installing Distraction Free Mode for Google Docs. This way, you can bound your students to take all notes within the Google Docs platform. This instructional tool works as a Chrome extension and hides all the formatting tools, controls, and buttons. Resultantly, students will see a blank page only. No doubt, this approach is much better than banning digital devices and turning them back to hand-written notes. Digital notes are easier to share, edit, and modify. Therefore,, you can use instructional technology to remove digital distractions in the classroom instead of giving up on digital devices.
2. Device contracts, Screen Locks, and Monitoring
Banning digital devices in the classroom is not the solution, because kids will find a way to use them. Therefore, it is much better to find the right middle ground for you and your students. By putting some clear rules in writing, and having students sign them, can work to empower them to stay focused when they are using devices. Common Sense Education offers an extensive customizable contract that you can use. The contract is signed by both students and their parents so that both parties are aware of the rules.
There was a time when teachers were unable to control how students use their phones and devices in the classroom, but now they can regulate it using screen lock tools and student monitoring apps. Classroom productivity is highly affected when students use their digital devices to view social media or play games during the lecture. For this reason, schools need to implement digital firewalls as they allow the administration to block sites that keep students otherwise unfocused. You can use screen-control software programs like Xnspy that allow teachers to lock the screen of their students’ devices. This way, when working on an assignment or text, you can block access to web browsers or other potential digital distractions. With the help of such instructional technologies, you can monitor and control their device usage in the classroom. As they have signed an agreement, you can talk to them or call their parents if you find any inappropriate digital activity during the lecture.
3. Encourage Compartmentalization of time
Of course, it can be challenging students to focus on the task when every phone alert causes distraction. Few students want to turn off their notifications completely when they are focusing on a task, but you can help them find a way to compartmentalize their time, which can help them to complete their tasks quickly with increased retention. You can encourage students to use the Pomodoro method of working for 25 minutes and taking a five-minute break to maximize personal productivity. Being a teacher, you can help students identifying their biggest distraction and figuring out tools that work best for them to get rid of these distractions.
4. Adopt Blended Classroom Model
It is pretty obvious to deduce that students need a mixture of technology and non-technology activities to deal with the distraction, and this instructional technology is called blended learning. Just a few years back, blended learning trends became popular with the proliferation of technology and tech emergence in the classroom. The Blended classroom model can be implemented in many unique ways, including:
- Station Rotation
- Lab Rotation
- Individual Rotation
- Flipped Classroom
- A La Carte
- Enriched Virtual
- Project-based blended learning
- Self-directed blended model
- Inside-out learning
- Outside-in blended learning
To do so, as a teacher, you can bring both screen-based and traditional classroom activities into lessons every day. Also, you can take “tech breaks,” allowing students a chance to check their smartphones or other devices. In case you are using technology a lot, you can develop device-free activities to deal with digital distractions.
Digital devices in the classrooms are here to stay. With the proliferation of technology, these devices are becoming smaller and easier to hide. Hence, banning technology in the classroom isn't going to work at all. Instead, you can find ways to use these devices to encourage effective learning in the classroom, and instructional technology can help you in this regard.
Even though there is not a 100% guarantee you will stop kids from using devices like phones and tablets during class, there are ways that schools can cut down on unnecessary screen time leading to digital distractions in the classrooms. In many cases, it requires you to take control by monitoring screens, and other times, it may require using less tech in your lectures and allowing tech-breaks for students. Based on your classroom needs, you can adopt instructional ways that ensure your students are as focused as they can be.