How To Eliminate Electronic Distractions In Class?

When I graduated as a teacher in early 2018 and got my first job as a teacher I was really excited. In fact, I will easily pen down that day as one of the most exciting days of my life. Why is it so? Simple, the major reason I trained to be a teacher was to impart knowledge. Getting a job was akin to giving me the opportunity to live my dreams to reality.

I have been reading a lot and rehearsing in front of my mirror for days to make sure that my first lesson would be a stunner. A teacher’s first impression really matters; it determines if the students will give you their attention or if they will rebuff your presence. With the knowledge I had and the friendly teaching method I had perfected, I expected it to be a smooth sail. How wrong I was.

It only took me a few minutes to realize that most of the students in the class were distracted. It is really difficult for students to nibble on their electronic gadgets and still listen to the teacher, like the popular saying, “You can’t serve two masters at a time”. For me to get them to pay attention and get something out of my lesson, it was important that I cut down the distraction. Read on to see how I was able to deal with the situation.

Let The Know That Multitasking Is Overrated

The moment you catch a student texting in class and tell them to drop their phone, the answer that you will likely get is, “but I was listening”. Well, listening doesn’t necessarily mean understanding. Information obtained while in a distracted state are less likely to be deeply embedded. While it is possible for an individual to do more than one thing at a time, it is almost possible to do them well. Many students have this multitasking myth and it is important to debunk this myth. Imagine how it will feel watching two different movies on two separate channels where you will have to flip between the channels. One of two things is likely to happen; either you don’t enjoy any of the two movies or you favor one over the other. You can perform the practical in class to show the students how difficult what they are doing is.

Setting Regulations On Smartphone Use

A lot of educators will agree with me that there is nothing as annoying as having a phone ring right in the middle of a lesson. On the contrary, banning smartphone use might not be the solution. It often limits the student’s ability to customize their learning experience like looking up certain terms used by the teacher on the Internet, Using Google images to visualize concepts, and many more. A better approach would be to set up rules and regulations on digital technology use by the students and hand this down to them from the very first day that you enter the class. These rules can include switching phones to silent or airplane while in the class and use of tablet only during a group exercise. For the students to respect the rules you have to set penalties for breaking them and rewards for those who keep to them. I did this the next time I entered the class but it would be more appropriate on the first day to make a statement on the kind of a teacher that you are.

Be Creative With Smartphone Rules

The worst place an educator can find him or herself is that spot where student looks at them as mean. Placing an outright ban on the use of smartphones and tablets can elicit that feeling. When students hate you as their teacher, the chances that they will pay attention to whatever you are saying slims down. I was studying recently to see how educators dealt with the problem when I stumbled on the experiment of Dough Duncan at the University of Colorado Boulder. What Duncan does is to allow the students to check their phones for one minute every fifteen minutes. When students know that you will let them use their phones every now and then, it cuts down their attempt to do it in secret.

Using Mobile Device Management Software

Mobile device management software and class management software can be used to track student activities when they are connected to a common wireless network. Integration of this software gives the teacher the administrative power to alter the student’s electronic device settings like monitoring web browsing activities, blanking screens, and limiting applications. More recent electronic devices usually have parental control options which you can use to set functionalities and applications you want the student to access at any given time. However, before you activate the parental guide feature it is important that you work in collaboration with the parents of the students because they will need to provide the passcode.

Make The Lesson Engaging

If you use a style of teaching where you stand and talk for long minutes while the students are supposed to listen, there is an increased likelihood that the students will be distracted. When designing your lesson, it is important to limit your talking time t a length that is appropriate to the students’ attention spans. Studies suggest that seventh-grade students can only tolerate a maximum of 30 minutes of continuous lecture. Break up the lesson into short minutes of talk and fill the space up with engaging group activities. The group activities should also have limited time. Distractions often arise when students have ample time at their disposal.

Advice For Educators

Always resist the urge to give out all your presentation slides and lecture notes in advance. Leave an element of surprise. I would recommend providing the skeleton and tasking the students to fill it in. if students have the hard copy of their lecture notes on the table, it makes the class repetitive and uninteresting increasing the chance of them looking for something more engaging.