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How to Reduce Digital Distraction in the Classroom

How to Reduce Digital Distraction in the Classroom

By Megan Ray Nichols

We live in the digital age. There’s no avoiding or changing this fact. Children are growing up in an era where the breadth of human knowledge is available at any time at their fingertips—plus games, social media sites, chat apps and so much more.

This means there’s also a wealth of distraction that can make it challenging to get students to focus in the classroom when using tech to teach.

What can you do to reduce digital distraction in this day and age? Here are a few simple ideas to get rid of digital distraction once and for all.

#1: Distraction-Free Digital Note-Taking

Laptops, tablets and cell phones are all invaluable tools when taking notes, allowing students to quickly notate ideas as well as notes. This is especially valuable if you’re taking notes via alternative tools like mind mapping software. Unfortunately, allowing digital devices for note taking also opens the door to digital distraction.

One way to reduce this distraction is to install Distraction Free Mode for Google Docs and keep all note-taking within the Google Docs platform. This tool, which operates as Chrome extension, hides all the formatting tools and buttons, so the students see just a blank page.

This may be a better option than switching back to hand-written notes because digital notes are easier to share. They’re also easier to edit and modify when prepping for an exam. Don’t give up on digital note-taking just yet; instead, use a solution that removes the distraction for your students.

More: 8 Best Tools to Share Tools Digitally

#2: Screen-Locks and Monitoring

Many classrooms are shunning traditional textbooks in favor of digital alternatives. Some are even providing their students with iPads or Chromebooks to make it easier for them to complete their schoolwork while saving their young spines from being bowed under the weight of anywhere from five to nine heavy textbooks. Unforunately, it’s not possible for the teacher monitor the contents of every screen while these devices are in use.

Luckily, Chromebook recently introduced a screen-control software that could change this. These screen locks allow teachers to lock the screen of their student’s controlled Chromebook. This way, when working on the assignment or video, you can block out any web browsers or other potential digital distractions. While this feature doesn’t appear to be available just yet, you can also use the Chrome extension, Netop Vision Teacher to do the same thing. To get signed up, you’ll just need three things:

  • A Google Classroom account
  • Netop Vision Student (Available from the Chrome web store
  • Netop Vision Student Extension (Available from the Chrome web store)

Another paid tool is ClassHub. This does cost money, but may be a tool your school wants to invest in for all teachers.

#3: Device Contracts

Sometimes, simply putting the rules in writing, and having students sign, is enough to empower them to stay focused when devices are in use. Common Sense offers an extensive customizable Device Contract that you can use with your students. It is signed by both the student and the parent, so both parties are aware of the agreement.

You can also add distraction-specific rules to your list of classroom technology rules, ensuring students are aware of what is expected of them when using devices for learning.

#4: Turn to the Blended Classroom Model

 Students may simply need a mix of technology and non-technology activities to reduce the distraction. This is called blended learning and was a popular trend when tech made a strong emergence in the classroom just a few years back.

Common Sense Media suggests: “Build lessons that have a predictable flow of tech and non-tech activities.” To do so, they’re tips include:

  • Bring both screen-based and traditional activities into lessons every day.
  • Take “tech breaks” as a class, giving students a chance to check their devices.
  • Build in device-free activities where possible.

Here are a few more blended learning resources if you’re new to the concept:

Reduce Digital Distraction

Digital devices are here to stay and as technology continues to advance, they will continue to get smaller and easier to hide. Banning technology in your classroom is not the solution. Instead, find useful ways for your students to employ their digital devices so they can learn effectively without splitting their focus between school work and social media.

In many cases, that requires you to take control by monitoring screens, and other times, that may require less tech in your lessons and small device breaks for students who are dying to check their phone. Find what works for your classroom to make sure your students are as focused as they can be

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