In the digital age, technological distractions play a major role in many students' academic productivity. Really? Your distance learner might wonder. How harmful can a single text message, a quick glance at Facebook, or a short and sweet Tweet be?
According to a recent study, the average length of time that students spent focusing on a single homework-related task before redirecting their attention, often due to technological distractions, was less than six minutes. Think about it this way, by taking a two-minute timeout to text, tweet, or chat every six minutes, students add an extra 20 minutes to what could be an hour-long study session.
According to an article published by Edutopia, taking the time to check a text message or social media site in the middle of an academic task causes students to lose a percentage of the learning that they have accomplished. In order to dive back into the task, students must reacquaint themselves with the material before moving forward on the assignment, prolonging the learning process.
That's not to say that technological communication can't serve as a beneficial study break. By learning to delay gratification, that is to pass up a small reward now in order to receive a larger reward in the future, your student can use such activities as an effective study break between tasks.
Unlike randomly checking text messages and notifications as they roll in, scheduling a 10 minute technology break between assignments helps reduce distractions and heighten concentration. Scheduled study breaks also provide an immediate reward for hard work.
If your distance learner struggles with technological distractions, here are a few additional ways you can help him get focused.
1. Encourage your student to think about the future. Help him visualize the benefits of focused studying, which include learning new things, passing exams, and enjoying lengthier breaks between tasks.
2. Help your distance learner understand procrastination. Sue Shellenbarger examines the impact of mood on procrastination in the Wall Street Journal and offers several tips to help procrastinators push forward and face the task at hand.
3. Introduce your student to apps that limit access to online temptations. Online distractions have become so commonplace that developers have created apps like SelfControl and Freedom, which allow users to block specific websites or the entire web for a specific amount of time. Just download the app, set your desired time limit, and enjoy distraction-free work.
Learning self-discipline as a youngster will impact your distance learner throughout the course of his life. Landmark studies like the marshmallow test have shown that the ability to delay gratification as a child correlates with a variety of positive life outcomes, including higher SAT scores, greater self-confidence, heightened social skills, and a decreased likelihood of substance abuse. More recent research indicates that a child's ability to delay gratification is impacted by several factors, including both self-control capacity and established beliefs about the likelihood of receiving a reward.
By providing a reliable environment within which promised rewards are upheld, you'll give your student the opportunity to learn the advantages of delayed gratification and develop a skill that will come in handy for everything from studying for tests to saving money to buy a home in adulthood.
How do you help your students maximize their study time and eliminate distractions?