Many schools are going “one-to-one,” which means every student has a laptop or tablet on which to work. While there are tremendous advantages of having access to electronic devices in school, there are some potential problems, as well. Students have access to electronic textbooks and instant information, and they have less to carry around with them in their backpacks. They also have an almost irresistible distraction sitting right in front of them on their desk. Many students cannot control the urge to browse the web, play games either alone or with friends, watch videos, or visit social networking sites when they should be working. Teachers try to monitor what their students are doing, but truthfully, it is not possible to teach a lesson and at the same time keep track of what every student is doing on his computer. The responsibility lies with each student to stay focused on their schoolwork.
Here are some tricks that might help your child stay focused in class.
When the computer is not being actively used for the lesson, he can partially close it or turn it so that the screen is not visible while he is focusing on the teacher. This keeps him from watching what is happening on the screen, and it also sends the message to the teacher and other students that he is listening. Teachers call this “half mast,” or “forty-five” (meaning the screen is at a 45-degree angle to the table top). The advantage for laptop users is that this keeps them from being distracted but does not shut down the computer, so it is ready to use as soon as the teacher asks for it. Tablets boot almost instantly, so he could just as easily turn it off to keep from being distracted by it.
Talk to your child’s friends to let them know that during class she does not want to receive messages or play games. This is difficult for some teens because it is hard to stand up to peers. She could say something like, “I feel frustrated when you send me messages in class because I have a hard enough time keeping up with algebra without being distracted. I need you to wait until after class to socialize. Please don’t do that any more.” Chances are her friend will benefit from this stance as much as she will! If you allow her to practice saying this to you at home, it will be easier for her to say to her friends.
Many online games require players to be logged in at all times or they lose status. These games are generally free at first, but once you get into the game it costs money to do well. This is very tempting for students to stay logged on their game during the school day. If your son is involved with one of these games, you may need to intervene. Be aware that he can also play these games on his smartphone, so if you decide to uninstall the game, you will need to check the phone, too. Splitting his brain power between schoolwork and an online game will result in lower grades in school.
One-on-one programs are relatively new on the scene in schools. If your child is participating in one, help her understand her responsibility during the school day is to do her best school work. She will need to minimize distractions from the screen, her friends who want to socialize online, and playing computer games when she should be learning. The discipline she will learn will help her in other areas of her life and prepare her for college and the workplace.
Livia McCoy spent many years teaching upper school science. She currently serves as Dean of Student Support at The Steward School in Richmond, VA. Livia sees each student as an individual with great potential to learn, and feels her job is to help every student figure out how to be successful in school. Livia says, “I blog about the many smart students who struggle in school because they think differently or have attention issues. I share what I have learned helping these students, their parents and teachers to see how they can experience success in school.” Livia welcomes comments on her blog at SchoolFamily.com.