Discouraging Smartphones from Disrupting Students’ Focus in Class


(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

Research has found that students who multi-tasked with emails, text messages, and social media during class had lower scores on tests than students who did not multi-task.

I wanted to share that research with my Writing students, but, instead of just giving a lecture, I incorporated it in a fluency writing activity.  (I’ve described the step in a fluency writing activity in a previous posting Fluency writing: reading, speaking in triads, and listening culminating in a writing task. )  It involves reading, speaking, listening and writing.  In brief, students in groups of three, each having a different part of an article, read their part to their partners, and then, individually paraphrase the entire article.

I’m attaching the complete fluency activity about smartphones here in case you’d like to try it with your students.  Fluency Smartphones

A Smartphone Policy that Seems to Work for Students

As a result of that research and from experience observing my students constantly being distracted by smartphones, I set a policy: Students cannot use their smartphones during the class (from 1:30-3:20), but they can leave the classroom anytime they want to use them.

Last Monday, I received a comment (unsolicited) from an Indonesian student about my smartphone policy .  He said that on the first day of class three weeks ago, when he first heard the policy, he felt upset about it.  But after a couple of classes, he was surprised to see how focused he could be in class because he wasn’t constantly distracted by thoughts about his smartphone.  And he said he’s been able to get a lot more work done as a result.  So he said that now he really appreciates the policy and recommends it for future students.

This has generally been the response by most of the students.  I think that it works for them because they have the autonomy to decide whether it’s worth the time and effort to leave the classroom to use the phones.  At the same time, they are not constantly reminded of their smartphones by other students suddenly checking theirs.

I’d enjoy continuing this conversation with you and hearing your perspectives and experiences with smartphones in your classes.  Feel free to click on “Reply” at the top of this posting, and/or send me an email and we can continue this.

David Kehe





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