The New York Times ran this story today about the effect technology is having a students’ attention spans. Even though you may feel like you’ve read this line of research before, this story is worth a close reading. The focus is on the various ways in which technology can be distracting and offers anecdotal evidence such as a students who send hundreds of text messages a day. There is some finger-pointing here, as one researcher says “when adults were not supervising computer use, children ‘are left to their own devices, and the impetus isn’t to do homework but play around’”. To me, this is the same story of students trying to get out of doing homeroom that goes back years before computers. Left to their own devices, students have always found ways to procrastinate doing their homework. As one student says “video games don’t make the hole; they fill it.” Most of the other technologies being criticized, such as cell phones and Facebook, are natural extensions of the students’ preference to socialize over doing their work.
The article’s related video feature, Teachers’ Views on Technology in the Classroom, is definitely worth a look. I especially recommend the third video in which the teacher discusses the concept of the “backwards classroom”.