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Classroom Distraction or Learned Behavior?


Jimmy's Charhouse was typically busy this Saturday night. Nearly every table is filled, and there's a short line of patrons at the door waiting to be seated. At this time of the evening, many families are enjoying dinner. My wife and I are enjoying our salads. She looks wonderful, and I want to take her picture. In the background, I notice a family of seven celebrating a birthday over dinner. The parents and grandparents are conversing over a beverage. The teenage daughter is texting on her iPhone while her younger sister plays with the ice cubes in her glass of cola. Their younger brother is playing a handheld video game. 


I watch this scene off and on for the next several minutes. The boy has yet to eat or even look up from his game. It is his birthday being celebrated. My wife excuses herself to the ladies room, and I take this opportunity to look around our dining room. There are ten tables, each with children, having dinner. Each of these parties has, at least, one child enjoying screen time with either a smart phone or tablet. Six of the parties have two or more children engrossed in their screens. Ten out of ten!

Against my philosophical position, my school district is looking for practical, effective ways to restrict student iPad use to an academic purpose. The argument presented by teachers, students, and parents, is these restrictions will limit distractions, and enable greater focus on academic endeavors. According to presented research, our younger students are not able to make good choices regarding focused use of mobile electronics.

This is our second year of being fully one-to-one with iPads, so we are learning more about engagement and classroom effectiveness as we go. However, most of our high school students have likely had several years of engaging with their mobile devices, voraciously consuming whatever content appears on their screens.

Millions, no billions, of dollars have been spent developing and perfecting the enticing properties of mobile electronics. How can teachers compete against this level of firepower? Is there any wonder many of our students struggle with face-to-face interaction when families choose digitally enabled isolation? Who gets credit for classroom distraction, the mobile electronics designers, or kids who have successfully mastered the art of focusing on their screens?

Related Reading


Why a Leading Professor Banned Technology... - Washington Post, Valerie Strauss

Comments

Joy Kirr said…
Bob, I read an article awhile ago... Disney did some research (I guess they do this often!) to see what children were drawn to at their parks. Was it the costumes? Stores? Toys? Rides? They watched children in strollers and those walking alongside parents. What were the children's eyes on most often?? Their parents - their parents on their PHONES. I had so many more questions than answers after reading that article. Thank you for sharing your observations - I have more questions now. :)
Robert Schuetz said…
Thanks Joy,
I'm with you here. The more I see, the more questions keep me thinking. Like, "Why do adult drivers think it's OK to text on their phones with kids in the car?"
Head scratchers, for sure.
Make it a great day!
Bob

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