The other day, I stumbled upon an interesting article. I’m sure I’m like many of you, that in your free time you browse on your iPhone, Samsung galaxy, or whatever your mobile phone of choice. During that time, I found this interesting article on the ABC News app titled Cellphones in classrooms contribute to failing grades: Study. The article caught my attention, because I have been taught that technology is a good thing! The article was written by Dr. Kevin Ruitzel, and at first, I felt like I was tricked into another clickbait. But it goes into discussing how distractions can really impact someone’s grades and uses the results from a study done with 118 college students to make that point. Now, many people that like to multitask, might argue this, but they discuss how technology distractions lowered these college students grades half a letter. They came to this conclusion by breaking the 118 students into two different groups; one was allowed to have cell phones and laptops open for non-classroom purposes and the other was not. At the end of the study, the group that wasn’t allowed to have any technology out scored significantly better on their work.
To me, personally, this isn’t a shocking outcome, as I’m one that doesn’t like to have anything distracting me while I work. I usually go to our office and close the door to work in complete privacy. My wife, on the other hand, routinely has the TV on or is messing with her cell phone while doing work or sending email. I can assure you, that a fight would ensue if I attempted to turn anything off! I’m sure many can remember the college roommate (or you were the college roommate) that had the music blaring and TV on while studying for their next final! Being in education, and having a young son in school, it made me start thinking about how distractions really can affect one’s ability to learn.
From the information in the previous article, I began looking for ways to study better and improve retention. Psych Central had the ten best effective study habits. Most on the list wouldn’t surprise anyone, and I’m not going to discuss those, but a few that jumped out to me were: how you approach studying matters, bring everything you need and nothing that you don’t, and make a schedule you can stick to. The most interesting one was, by far, how you approach studying. Most everyone has heard how important one’s mental state is to achieve a desired outcome. This is that same logic. Avoid negative thinking like “I’m never good at math” or “I’m going to fail this test”. We are probably all guilty of that! Positive thinking really can improve your grades! The second one, was to bring everything you need and nothing that you don’t. Don’t forget your Mac or PC, but leave behind all the extra items that will just distract you. We all have seen people who spread out seventy-two different items when they are trying to study. It actually reminds me of an episode of the Big Bang Theory, where Sheldon has to have everything completely perfect before working. He spent so much time making sure everything is correct, that the task became of little importance. If we don’t bring it with us in the first place, then we won’t have time to be distracted by it! Finally, making a schedule and sticking to it. This one deals much more with not waiting until the last second to start preparing for an exam, presentation, or such. Don’t make studying something you will do when you get around to it. You’ve heard that you are less likely to retain information that you just spent the past ten hours cramming. Instead, spend 30-60 minutes a day learning the information. You will be more confident and thus more likely to remember the information for the exam.
Distracted technology really is a significant negative to the classroom or study session. We have all heard how awesome and positive it can be when technology is used correctly. Edutopia has an amazing article written about ways to improve how we integrate technology for learning, and has some fascinating examples for doing so. The two big areas are for it to be routine and transparent, and accessible. It mostly boils down to this “When technology integration is at its best, a child or a teacher doesn't stop to think that he or she is using a technology tool -- it is second nature.” That really makes so much sense! Something that one uses on a daily basis, and has easy access to, would allow the learning process to flow. I’ve attached some links below that will help with game-based learning to make it more fun. I believe its something worth trying out because we all know that technology isn’t going away! Embracing it the right way, and not as a distraction, will just build a better foundation for your kids as they transition to high school and college.