Student Distraction–Could Technology Help Fix That?

Inside Higher Ed published this article on anti-distraction software that seemed to help students focus on course work. Here’s a link to the actual research article. The researcher used a “commitment device, which enables students to pre-commit to daily time limits on distracting Internet activities; a reminder tool, which generates an on-screen reminder that is triggered by distracted web browsing; and a focusing tool, which allows students to block distracting websites for up to an hour when they go to the course website” (Patterson, 2014, p. 2).

This struck a chord with me–for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been informally surveying undergrad visitors to the Playground. My primary question is–on your mobile phone, on which apps have you turned on notifications? Next, I ask them do they respond to those Notifications when they are studying? Here’s a breakdown of the responses:

  • text messages (by far the biggest response, everyone seems to stop what they’re doing and check their devices),
  • email (the second most popular response),
  • social media apps (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat, GroupMe, Trivia Crack–in that order)
  • ESPN,
  • and various other apps (Apple Updates, Reddit, Google+, Weather, Words With Friends, TimeHop, AmberAlerts, Google Rewards, Podcasts).

A research question would center around applying Patterson’s commitment device and reminder tools to keep students on-task while they’re trying to study. Thoughts?

Drop by the Playground to chat with us or leave us a comment below.



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