Learning and Education: Suggestions and Solutions
PERSONAL DEVICES AND TECHNOLOGY DURING LEARNING
The research is vast and conclusive. Using personal devices and technology for off-task activities, media multitasking, even the mere presences of a device, all have negative implications for a student’s ability to learn new information, to recall information and to perform on quizzes and in class, in general.
Here’s what you can do about it:
Delay smartphones until at least 8th grade and social media even longer.
If your child has a smartphone and/or social media, establish a Family Media Plan and implement Personal-Tech-Free Times while doing homework.
Studies show that implementing a “Technology Break,” meaning a set time to check in with the connected world (generally 10-15 minutes), can relieve internal distractions. Students are less likely to be distracted by the uncertainty of when they can use their devices. Encourage your student to establish reasonable technology breaks but set a timer so students don’t get sucked in.
On an neurological level, “Technology Breaks” are also believed to help students process information in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for analytical learning. Share this bit of information with them: Taking breaks from technology will help them complete their homework faster and perform better in school.
Studies have also found that students who wait a period of time to open and respond to alerts performed better on tests. This implies that student should be taught mindful use of technology. Students should be reassured that they never have to respond immediately.
Encourage students to develop a plan that includes studying and engaging in non-school related technology without doing both at the same time. Students will be better equipped to stay on task and remain focused while studying if they are supplied with the knowledge that they can check devices within a certain period of time.
As part of their study plan, encourage students to engage in uninterrupted homework time for longer and longer periods so they can strengthen their ability to sustain attention.
Media Mindfulness can be taught beginning at a young age. Teach your children to actively choose one task and then to actively choose another without being drawn away by external or subconscious drivers. Modeling this behavior can be helpful.
As students use more technology to study, turn off notification and remove apps and messenger from devices used for school. By removing these distractors, students are better able to focus. This works well for adults, too.
Based on research, what is the answer for screens in schools? This is a very complicated, multi-layered question based on grade-level, device type and amount of usage. Research and professional opinions around this subject are vast and ever-changing. It would be impossible to cover every possible scenario here.
We encourage concerned parents and school districts to have open and honest dialogues. Technology is complicated and policies should be clear and transparent. Every member of the district, especially students, should have a well developed understanding of those policies. And districts should be open to parent and student suggestions.
We should work together to help our children manage technology. We all want what is best for them!
Here we examine questions to consider about Ed Tech and some simple suggestions:
Does the technology being used enhance or enrich the learning experience?
Technology in the classroom is an amazing tool that can give students access to information they could never access before. Information can and should be accessed in multiple forms.
Take TedTalks, for example. These are invaluable for furthering a student’s understanding of a particular topic and a great launching point for in-depth conversations.
YouTube* gives students access to study tools, such as songs paired with graphics, which make learning material easier and more fun.
Skype and other live communication platforms connect students across the world.
Technology should never be used to replace or undermine the development of important life skills. Ideally, these tools should be used as a class (vs. individually) as often as possible to support both face-to-face collaboration and understanding and development of non-verbal communication skills, as well as to avoid the distractions most often present on personal devices. When surveyed, students who viewed a classroom document or resource from their individual device were more likely to engage in non-school related activities.
*Warning about YouTube. Elsagate revealed that YouTube contains much kid-targeted yet highly inappropriate and offensive material. Even videos of things innocuous as kids playing video games have revealed cross-references to porn. Another problem with using YouTube as a teaching tool is the “You Might Also Like” videos that can bring kids down a rabbit hole of strange and often inappropriate content, including comments. So please use together and with extreme caution. For younger children, only access videos posted by reliable and official sources, such as Sesame Street.
Are the tools being used to supplement (and not replace or displace) traditional learning?
When used carefully and effectively, online study tools, such as Quizlet, can assist students in testing their knowledge before an exam.
Google classroom and other classroom-based platforms assist students in organizing assignments and teacher communication.
Note taking applications are widely used in high school and college settings and it may be a good idea for younger students to learn how to use these applications. However, many college professors are adopting “No Laptop” policies, so students also need to know how to take notes longhand.
These tools should be used alongside traditional learning tools and not as a replacement.
Students must be taught many different studying techniques and how to evaluate the effectiveness of each tool. For many students, the gaming component apps, like Quizlet, will counter its effectiveness as a learning tool because gaming can cause hyperarousal and anxiety. Hyperarousal interferes with a student’s ability to learn. Students and teachers must have open dialogues about this, and students must be empowered to self-reflect and chose another study option when this happens.
Students should also be taught traditional forms of organization through the use of assignment books. This is another tool that works better for many students. We know that the physical act of writing solidifies information into our memories. Teachers should continue to teach this option alongside online assignment tools.
As mentioned, the physical act of writing solidifies information into our memories. Students should be taught how to take written notes, and the process of summarizing information and organizing it in a purposeful way for later studying. This process does not generally occur when typing notes as students tend to type faster and thus verbatim. What’s worse? Accessing online teacher notes.
We also know that handwriting solidifies basic skills like capitalization, punctuation and spelling. These skills are often forgotten when computers and other devices do it for us. Students need to develop these skills as habit and handwriting helps them do this.
There is value in the simple act of pondering. We do less of that now with the advent of Google. Students would do well to sit with their thoughts and to engage in discussions with classmates, teachers and parents. Students need to learn how to form their own opinions through listening and thinking vs. adopting one they find online.
How are we protecting our students’ health as it relates to screen time?
Studies clearly show the many health effects of too much screen time. As teachers and parents, we need to think about the impacts as we direct students to screens for learning.
Research supports time outside as a natural antidote for too much screen time. Physical activity is important and sunlight can help heal blue-light-exposed eyes. Students should be spending time outside, without screens, as part of their school day.
Unstructured play helps students develop creativity and interpersonal skills. Connecting with nature is calming and beneficial for our mental health.
Mindfulness is another antidote to too much screen time and helps students manage the addictive nature or “persuasive design” of devices and apps. Working mindfulness into the curriculum will assist students in developing a healthy relationship with technology.
HOw are we protecting student and teacher privacy?
This is a major concern that is grabbing international and national headlines. Expect to see much more on this subject in the coming months and years. Many states across the US are considering legislature that will surely change the way tech companies are doing business. It is, however, our responsibility to think critically about how technology captures and stores personal information and the possible implications of that for children across their lifetimes.