Shannon Kirshy, GBP Student
Facebook, texting, Twitter, and fantasy leagues are just some of the digital distractions that students sometimes struggle with. In our Greater Boston Project class, the 1:1 technology to student ratio has opened up many new opportunities to learn, as well as many distractions that will tempt us away from the task at hand. In class last week we looked at an article called “How to Teach in an Age of Distraction” that analyzed how learning has changed, as well as how this affects our interpersonal skills.
GBP Students use iPads, Chromebooks, and Macbooks to complete an activity at the Needham Historical Society. (Photo by Ms. Tincher)
We learned how there are two main types of attention: hyper attention and deep attention. Deep attention lasts for a longer span of time and requires focus, such as when you are reading a book or working hard on school work. Unfortunately, this attention is becoming harder and harder to achieve because of how our brains are changing due to technology, especially social media. This is because when we look at our Facebook or Twitter, we use hyper attention. We only scan the page, not reading each individual word and simply looking for something to catch our interest. This is becoming more and more prominent in our lives as social media continues to overwhelm our laptops and smartphones. One professor in the article explained finding herself having difficulty focusing on reading one of her favorite books because she was out of practice of getting into the mindset of deep attention. After a few weeks of struggling and practice, it became easier for her to obtain the deep attention and could read the book with ease, which shows how our brain will change according to what we practice using it for.
Teachers have also noticed a difference in how students take notes because of the use of laptops instead of paper and pen. Students in college classes often take transcripts of the class lecture instead of bulleted notes that involve students’ selection of key information. Professors report that students are often annoyed if they asked a question, due this interrupting their transcription of the lecture. This is harmful for two reasons: first, it discourages students to participate in class and second, students don’t get the skill of organizing information. Students were less likely to participate in class because it would break up the lecture; participation is beneficial to the learner, but is harder for those who are typing every word the professor is saying. Also, by simply writing exactly what the professor is saying, students don’t get the skill of filtering information and just writing the important parts. This useful study tool isn’t as necessary for typing because students can usually type faster than write, but it is still necessary in separating the essential pieces from the lecture.
Furthermore, one of the biggest complaints among people hiring recently graduated students is that they don’t have the interpersonal skills required in the business environment. Students are often in group chats with their project partners instead of meeting in person and working. They would rather email a teacher than go to their office to have a chat. One student said how he felt that he misrepresented himself in person and he was more articulate in an email because he could edit and reread it before sending it off. I have experienced this problem in my own life as I get nervous when I’m on the telephone and would much rather be writing an email instead of talking.
In order to address these problems we must learn how to successfully incorporate technology but not lose the skills that are not practiced as much, such as filtering information, becoming focused for longer periods of time, and being able to present yourself and communicate in person. Technology has helped me with schoolwork since I can remember, starting with SmartBoards and huge, archaic desktops in elementary school to Chromebooks and Google Classroom in high school. Technology isn’t slowing down anytime soon, but in order to get the most out of these new advances we need to start using them as tools instead of a short cuts.
This blog is powered by both the students and teachers of the GBP course. Check back often for features on what we've been up to in class!