Digital distractions

This article discusses the result of a survey that examined the affect of digital devices during classes on students. Students….overwhelmingly support using devices in the classroom, with about 90 percent of respondents saying devices should not be banned. The students base their support mainly on two beliefs: that they can use devices without being significantly distracted, and that they should be free to use their devices whenever they want. A smaller number of students said whatever they use the devices for outweighs the distractions it may cause (12.8 percent), or that they simply can’t stop themselves from looking (11.5 percent).

I have not banned the use of digital devices in my classes. I am of the opinion that students need to take responsibility for their actions.  I make it clear to students that if at any time their use of devices distracts me or other students, I will ask them to stop using the devices. I state also that students are responsible for any information or discussions they miss because of any activities on their digital devices (in other words, I’m not going to repeat or go over information missed because of this). I do know that digital devices can be used to help students track their learning, so I don’t want to have a ban, but a number of my colleagues are increasingly doing so.

I know that I am guilty of using digital devices during committee meetings at times, although I do use the devices to take notes (e.g., via EverNote).  Nevertheless, I have checked email and social media sites on more than one occasion (as have other people around me), and I realize also that this is rude, so perhaps I need to re-frame my policy to specify types of appropriate use (e.g., FB, Twitter, Instagram, email, etc., are not acceptable use, but note taking, note sharing, and so forth, are).  An outright ban on any devices simply doesn’t work for me, as I am one of those people who much prefers to take notes on a digital device (due to carpal tunnel, in my case), and I am sure that many students are in the same position.  Further, my classes tend to rely heavily upon Web access and use.


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