Maintaining Concentration in a Connected World

I came across this link from Mindshift on Twitter and it connected with me immediately. Keeping students with iPads (and any device for that matter) on task is a constant challenge as they start to wander off to more exciting apps/places when bored or disengaged. This can be a source of frustration for some teachers while others see it as a challenge to keep the students engaged and excited about the task at hand.

Maintaining focus while online is a challenge for all of us not just the students. You only have to sit in an after school staff meeting to know what I mean. After 5 minutes of being ‘talked at’ most teachers are reaching for the iPad or Mac to check emails!

Towards the end of last year a decision was made to ban all game apps from iPads. This was seen as a way of keeping students on task and less inclined to open an app that may distract them. This type of policy is only as good as the enforcement. Unless you are checking devices regularly then students will take their chances!

We had this approach early in the MacBook program to assist staff in the early days as they struggled to deal with the 1:1 program. We moved away from it at the start of 2012 as it was felt staff had enough skills to deal with these issues and it ‘kept them on their toes’ in terms of thinking about classroom management. It is also incredibly time consuming via the checking process and then the ‘pastoral’ follow up. Even with the most experienced and switched on teachers nobody can keep track of 30 devices in one room at any one time.

The ban has been in force all year and from my perspective it has made little difference. I still find students going off to game apps at different times during a lesson. You can see it in their eyes and their body language. They still have the apps and in reality nobody has the time to go through all devices on a regular basis. Every now and then a blitz occurs and then we move on! Total waste of time for all concerned.

Accept the fact that not every student will be on task 100% of the time during your lesson. Put in checkpoints to ensure they meet criteria and then hold them accountable if they have wasted their time during the allocated periods. This method works well for me and rarely do I have to hold many ‘catch up’ sessions after school. The students know their work will be checked at various times and that I am prepared to sacrifice a little of my time to get the desired outcome!

Is it any different to the old days when you were staring out the classroom window wishing you were anywhere but at school? I remember spending hours watching the men at the Bowling Club next to the school I attended throwing down a few ends! This was far more interesting than listening to the teacher talking or copying down notes from the board.

The challenge for teachers has always been creating engaging tasks that challenged and motivated the students. In this day and age it should be much easier given the huge amount of resources at the fingertips of both teachers and students.

Unfortunately too many of us are trying to teach the old way and throw a bit of technology at it to make it seem interesting. The students will always see through the charade and only when the task is truly authentic and they can clearly see the purpose and benefit of the task will you get considerable buy in.

The more things change the more they stay the same!


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