How to Engage Digitally Distracted Students

Students today are more distracted than ever before. Why is this happening? To explain it simply, they are immersed in their digital devices. In the classroom, this becomes an even larger problem. A recent Pew Research Study found, “87% say these technologies are creating an ‘easily distracted generation with short attention spans’ and 64% say today’s digital technologies ‘do more to distract students than to help them academically.’”

While it is clear that digital technology is distracting students, the technology is here to stay. For example, while most teachers agree the best way to turn digital distraction is to not allow mobile devices in the classroom, these same teachers agree this is ineffective in the long run. Instead, educators must be proactive and teach proper digital device usage in the classroom. Therefore, teachers must find ways to engage digitally distracted students.

Personalized Learning

Future Ready Schools specify using personalized learning strategies to help each student reach his or her potential. When students feel the lessons are personal and meaningful, they are less likely to be distracted. By using student-centered approaches, learning becomes personal. This may look like having students use digital content and technology to tell their own stories or research topics online that matter to them.

Hands-On Learning

Another way to engage digitally distracted students is to incorporate hands-on learning strategies. Rather than asking students to memorize a list of facts, educators should develop lesson plans that include multiple hands-on activities. Additionally, if teachers can develop lessons that allow students to use their mobile devices, this is even better.

For example, allowing students to use technology to explore online content is a great approach to hands-on learning. Students may use interactive technology tools that teach them different skills such as frog dissection apps. Furthermore, educators are recognizing the need for problem-based learning in the classroom which requires hands-on research as well. This may look like engineering bridges or robots using both their hands and their mobile devices.

Relevant Learning

You can also engage digitally distracted students by making what they are learning relevant. When students understand the real-world significance of what they are learning, they are more likely to be engaged and less distracted by their cell phones. For example, math teachers are using the website, Mathalicious, to find lessons that focus on real-life scenarios that are fun for students.

Finally, educators must aim to teach students how to use digital devices appropriately. Rather than taking cell phones out of the classes, teachers should look for ways to teach students how to be responsible users of technology.

Can you think of any additional ways that educators can engage digitally distracted students?

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