Thursday, July 16, 2015

Mobile Devices Are Damaging Learner's Attention and Possible Learning Outcomes

‘Such behavior is typical of “behavioral addiction” and “diminishes our ability to maintain attention'. 

After being in education as a professional for 15 years and as a parent well, let's just say, I am now a grandmother, I have seen the trends and identified what works and what does not work. First of all, let me stress, the old belief that ¨I learn better when I watch television. Or, I learn best when I have loud music blaring!¨ Is a bunch of bologna. While there are many people who come up with whatever excuse they can to justify distraction away from a required task, the truth is our brains are wired in particular ways. If you are using a computer with limited data space and you start opening multiple tabs, stream a video and play a game of (albeit free) online poker, the likelihood the system will run slower and possibly even clog up. So it is with the brain. the younger the brain, although flexible, the greater likelihood that confusion will be an outcome and altered understanding will emerge. 

¨Introduce behavioral addiction principals to our young and you have got a lifetime consumer.¨ Whether it is Saturday morning cartoon advertising which convinces every child what toy to beg for, or it is beer distributors giving it away on college campuses, to now the smartphone revolution, our kids have been groomed to be consumers, NOT, producers.

By the time our kids get into sixth grade, we have convinced them that they cannot survive if they do not have their cell phones on. It isn't just the communication with peers that becomes so important. Parental obsession with communicating with their kids is out of control. As a classroom teacher I cannot tell you how many times I have been in competition with Mommy or Daddy as they are disrupting their own kid's learning by texting them appointments, literally arguing with their kids by texting or even asking why they got a certain grade on a test that just showed up in the online grade books. Kids are texting parents in real time about what is happening in the classroom. I have even had student recording and sending incidents in the classroom out to parents. How this isn't a violation of FERPA, I have no idea! Add into all the parental fanaticism that is rampant these days, facebook, twitter, friend to friend texting and you have little to no learning taking place. Don't even get me started on the boyfriend/girlfriend drama! 

¨NO, it isn't okay to just have it on vibrate in your pocket! Turn it off, put it away and enjoy your smarth phone on your free time, which happens to be before school, lunch and after school!¨ I can tell you the vast difference between the learning outcomes of the kids who do not have their cell phones on their person, or who do not have them on. The vast difference between the kids married to their cell phones and those who do not own one is even bigger. Sadly, what I have witnessed is that their is a racial/socio-economic leaning to the cell phone overuse as well. Could that have been the motivation? Keep the learning gap ever widening by distracting our minority and poor kids? 

If you want to improve the graduation rate, literacy, and mathematics, then focus on teaching students to become producers and leave the consuming to non-academic hours. ¨I just had a great thought, but my text alert just went off and I lost it, sorry!¨

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