Illustration by Edpuzzle Staff
It’s every modern-day teacher’s nightmare, students checking social media on their phone or browsing the web on their laptop when they shouldn’t be.
Although technology has opened up many exciting learning possibilities, digital devices bring lots of challenges. Namely, distraction from school work.
Whether they are studying at home or working in the classroom, students need to learn helpful strategies now in order to be able to apply them successfully throughout their lives.
How do we teach students to effectively integrate technology into their learning while also making sure that they’re staying focused on the task at hand?
We’ve put together 5 tips for dealing with distractions in a practical way that doesn’t involve completing banning devices.
1. Embrace technology
You know when you get the urge to do something, just because someone tells you can’t? There might be some truth to that regarding students and digital distractions.
Taking devices away from students isn't a realistic option for many teachers. Instead of making technology the enemy, what if we found a common sense way to incorporate it into our lessons?
Instructional design models such as blended learning do a great job of combining learning online with learning offline. This ensures that students aren’t spending prolonged periods of time in front of a screen and creates a healthy balance of technology use.
It’s true, you won’t make a lesson automatically amazing by simply incorporating technology.
But if you remember to focus on your instructional goals and how a tech tool will help reach them, then you can create meaningful and engaging learning experiences.
2. Rethink classroom norms
As teachers, we want to show our students that we trust them. We also want to create clear boundaries.
When it comes to making rules about devices, think about what your students are capable of and what they need help with.
Consider letting students have their phone out to listen to music while doing independent work. Just like we can’t survive without our Spotify accounts, many students might find that music helps them focus. As long as they’re completing their work, there shouldn’t be a problem.
If you can find the right moment in class, try taking “tech breaks” where you allow students to check their phones. After working really hard on a project or activity, this gives them the chance to relax and disconnect before focusing on a new task.
Another great tip is to designate a locked space for students to let their devices charge. With just a power strip and locked cabinet, you can physically take away a student’s urge to check their phone. This simple action also shows students that you are trying to help them rather than punish them.
Over time, you’ll see students start to learn more about their own limits with technology. Eventually, they’ll be able to recognize when to put their phones away to avoid getting distracted.
3. Use creative online tools
Because distractions are a universal problem, tons of really cool apps exist to help us manage time in non-traditional ways.
The Forest app turns staying focused into a game. It allows you to start building a tree on your phone whenever you want to totally concentrate. If you leave the app after the tree starts growing (to check social media for example), the tree dies.
Students will love seeing how their personal forest grows every time they get their work done. They’ll also enjoy the fact that the Forest team donates to organizations that plant trees.
Another option is to control what you see on your screen. When working on an essay, students can use a full-screen mode writing program like Ommwriter on their computer to reduce distractions.
Students will be able to choose from a variety of calming desktop backgrounds and soothing white noise to help get them in the writing zone.
For students who feel they need a more extreme option, they can limit or block their internet use entirely. Extensions such as Stay Focused and LeechBlock restrict the time you can spend on time-wasting websites. Sometimes a little tough love does the trick!
4. Teach good study habits
Study skills don’t come naturally and we can’t assume that our students have been taught how to focus on their work.
It’s important that teachers review the basics at the beginning of the school year to build student independence and reduce test-taking anxiety.
If you don’t have the time to create your own lesson on the topic, have your students take Edpuzzle’s Learning and Study Habits course.
This online course is made up of 5 modules that total 60 minutes. It’s a perfect addition to your flipped classroom because students can complete it at their own pace and over the course of a few days or a few weeks.
If you prefer to personalize the videos for your class, feel free to add your own comprehension questions by just logging in to Edpuzzle and copying the lessons to your content.
With topics covering everything from learning styles to organization tips, your students are bound to pick up a few practical ideas.
5. Use Edpuzzle
Although videos are great teaching resources, we can’t always rely on our students to watch them without losing focus. That’s why Edpuzzle is such a game-changer!
Students can watch videos safely as an educational resource. Edpuzzle streams videos for students through a special YouTube server, so students won’t see ads or any other distracting content.
Edpuzzle also has several features that help hold students accountable and make sure that they watch their assignments and understand the content.
The Prevent Skipping feature will stop students from jumping straight to the end and makes sure your students watch the whole video.
Edpuzzle also has an Automatic Video Pause feature. This means that when your students start playing a video but then switch tabs in their browser, the video will automatically pause until they go back to the Edpuzzle tab.
By far, the best way to help your students concentrate is to engage them while they watch the video. That’s why one of our favorite Edpuzzle features is the ability to embed questions and notes.
By asking questions about the content or adding a note to better explain a concept, you are keeping your students’ attention on what they’re learning and preventing them from seeking out digital distractions.