Because a Laptop is Distracting!

Most teachers who work with a 1:1 program know that the benefits come with challenges. Our students are very social creatures, and the internet has given them an amazing tool to connect and be part of one or more communities all of the time. There are stories being told and invitations being issued; there are questions being asked and responses being given. It is a siren call to our students, and we need to help them defend themselves against it during the times they need to be focused on other work. How do we train our students to engage in the world of being a digital learner without losing track of the goal? What tools and tricks can we give them, so that the web will not seduce them when they have academic tasks to accomplish, whether they are in school or at home?

Teacher Strategies

1.Accept that it is part of them being a digital learner! Talk to your students regularly about what they find challenging and how they are managing their time. They know that the distraction is part of what happens when they are on their laptops. Have them develop classroom rules for their behavior. It is important for them to know that you understand the temptation, but that you want them to tackle it.

2. Provide them with time to “check in” at the beginning of class. Let them know that they will have 3 minutes, or however much time you think they need, to check their email and look at their various places to connect: Twitter, Pinterest, wherever they need to go. By providing them with designated time, we can avoid them regularly trying to sneak off to check. It acknowledges that the temptation is real, that the desire to connect is legitimate, but it also establishes that there are appropriate times to do it, provided by the teacher, and there are inappropriate ones. I have started having my students, who are all on MacBooks, do the finger swipe at the end of this time to show other windows that are open and to shut all of them that are not for class work.

3. “45 your laptops!” Have the students set their laptop covers at 45 degrees whenever instruction is happening. When the cover is at this angle, it maintains connection with the wifi, but the screen there less visible and less distracting for the students. Without the visual stimulation of whatever there, it is easier for them to focus on the class conversation. (It also does away with the sense of a barrier between the teacher and students or student and student that happens when all of the laptops are opened.)

4.Have the students take notes by hand, rather than on the computer. For many of them, this eye-hand coordination will activate the brain, helping them to learn the material as they write. It increases the time that they are focused on individual pieces of information. As I write the notes on the board, I am explaining them in more depth than when slides of information are projected. Also, especially for the quick typers, notetaking on the laptop often opens them up to the other distractions of the Web, while they wait for others to finish. Typing their notes then becomes the homework assignment, creating another time for reviewing and learning the material.

Student Strategies

1.Close out of email and other windows that are their main avenues of connection. When they are not being used for school, they should be closed. While many schools block these sites, it is important to talk about them, as they are a major draw away from work when at home.

2.When not working on their laptops, the students should turn their laptops upside down. The bottom of the laptop is heavier than the top, so if they unintentionally reach out to reconnect with their friends, the weight alone will remind them to stay on task.

3.Have the students use a digital tool, such as iProcrastine, to keep track of the work that they need to accomplish. Set clear goals for when the work will be done.

What strategies have you tried?

5 responses to “Because a Laptop is Distracting!

  1. Have students go through the process of creating an intentional digital management plan. Give them some ownership in both usage and potential consequences of misusing technology tools.

  2. Hello again! I think these are all great ideas to help reduce the distraction of social networking while working with computers. I get distracted so easily, so it’s definitely something I need to work on before I can help my future students tackle the problem! I think it’s a great idea to “45 the laptops” because so much of the distraction comes from being able to see the screen. I think it’s also a good idea in general to write out notes the first time because that always helps me stay focused on the lesson.

    A strategy I’ve used before is I’ve downloaded a time manager app for my computer that allows me to block certain websites for any amount of time I want. It helped me study for finals last semester, and I intend on using it again for this semester’s finals!

    Just as a reminder, I’ll be posting to my own blog my summary of your two blog posts I read by tomorrow!

  3. I really love the idea of a 3-minute check-in at the beginning of class. Think I will start doing this in my college classes and see if it helps students be more present and less distracted for the time we’re together.

  4. Notetaking buddies. Knowing that you will be sharing your notes with someone else who is taking notes in a different format (say one in word, one in smart ideas) helps keep kids responsible. They have an audience outside themselves.

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