This year I’ve noticed a trend that made itself even more clear today. I tweeted it earlier, but I think it’s worth exploring a bit more in writing.
I gave a short lecture today on right triangle trig to my algebra II class. (I had been doing more activity based, student centered lessons, so to be fair to the students it was probably a bit more boring than the last couple days.) I noticed many students, throughout the hour, whether it was during the lecture or group work, were on their phone much more than last week. I think this is because right triangle trig is a bit of an uptick in difficulty for many of them. Or maybe difficulty isn’t the right word. It’s just not as familiar to them. This causes them to go to something they find comfortable (their phone) very quickly.
I notice myself doing this at times. If I’m grading tests that aren’t that good or it’s taking me a long time, I find myself getting on Twitter or reading blogs. These are activities that are not very cognitively demanding and are much easier than the task at hand. Maybe that isn’t a great example because I’m not trying to learn something, but you get the idea. So I guess my question is, how do we help students persevere in these situations? I don’t think that taking away the phones is the best move. Once they get to college or their career, an employer isn’t going to say “you aren’t focusing enough, you can have your phone back at the end of the day.”
This is an open question that I can’t really answer. What are your thoughts or ideas? How do you help students see value in maintaining focus when class (life?) gets difficult? I’d love to hear your feedback, either here or on Twitter.