Bill MacKenty

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Differentiated Distraction and blocking?

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership Support on 03 - June 2011 at 08:28 AM (about 13 years ago). 198 views.

I was speaking with a seasoned classroom teacher yesterday about our 1:1 program in the High School. This guy is no luddite, but he’s also not on the “bleeding technology edge”. He is a consummate professional and well-respected amongst our high school staff. I asked him to share his thoughts about our 1:1 program.

“Well, Bill, you know the 500 pound elephant in the room is...”

I started praying his next words weren’t “..our horrible technology director...”

He continued, “is distraction.”

We started digging into this. There are some kids in his classes that are using technology in ways that make sense for him such as taking excellent notes and then sharing them online. However there are some kids in his class who are measurably suffering because they are distracted. Instead of notes, they are doing Other Stuff. Fill in the blank, playing games, on facebook, chatting, etc...

I hear from many teachers, parents, and even students that distraction is a major concern. I get it. I know divided attention (aka multitasking) hinders learning. I also know when technology is used effectively it really transforms teaching and learning.

As we were talking, I kept coming back to this idea that some kids were doing well with technology and some weren’t. I taught for 10 years, I moved kids around my classroom if they needed to be closer to the front. I made every effort to differentiate my instruction so different learning styles could access the content.

Why not do this with technology? If a student has a problem focusing, or is easily distracted, why not support that student by blocking all but the most important applications? If a student has special learning needs, we make accommodations. However in technology what I see is a “block everything or block nothing” approach.

I think of this an potentially important tool in the “how can we support students” toolbox.

Now for the obligatory explanation stuff:

1. I understand effective classroom management is intimately related to effective teaching.
2. I understand selectively blocking alone will not fix anything about distraction - but it will help.
3. I understand teaching and learning in a 1:1 classroom requires a different way of thinking about learning and teaching.
4. I understand kids can always become distracted. But I know there is something about technology that magnifies this.
5. I understand blocking will not keep a determined student to become distracted. If a kid wants to not pay attention in class, there is little we can do to stop them 😊

Curious to hear your thoughts...