Concentration, Distraction, and Higher Ed

This post grows out of an informal conversation this morning in the T.E.C.H. Playground about study & writing habits, digital devices, and work in higher education.David Levy at the University of Washington asks his students to sit quietly before beginning each class period–a brief period of meditation or simple quietness with no interactions between each other or via technology. His aim is to help students find balance between thought processes and abundant information & media saturation. Here’s the story via The Chronicle.

I discussed this article with undergraduate and graduate students and asked: how do you study? when you need to concentrate on a task, what steps do you take to reduce digital or personal distractions? Responses included finding a separate physical space (computer lab, coffee shop, here in the Playground), setting timers for work time and rest/online breaks, and noise-cancelling headphones with digital devices kept at a unusable distance. The students mentioned a strong desire to stay connected while studying. Here’s another article on digital distractions.

I asked: for which apps have you turned on Notifications or Alerts on your mobile devices? I heard: Texting (the most repeated response), email, GroupMe, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, ESPN, TriviaCrack, Reddit, AppUpdates, Weather, podcasts, Google Opinion Rewards, and TimeHop.

What digital distractions do you encounter or find yourself falling into? Are the distractions from studying, writing, and work harmful? How can we help students and ourselves overcome distractions if they adversely affect their and our abilities to study, write, and work?



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