I walked in from taking the dogs for a walk, and was assaulted by the sounds of one of the K-Pop bands my daughter likes.
Making my way into the living room I found her curled up in the recliner, a bottle of water and some pretzels nearby, while she watched a video on YouTube. Her books were scattered around her like confetti after a parade.
As soon as she noticed me, she turned the volume of the TV down and paused the video. Taking this as an invitation to begin our daily conversation of how her day had been, I took a seat and listened while she gave me a quick run down on the events of the day.
When I motioned to the scattered pages and books, she shrugged and said there was a test coming up in her science class.
When I raised an eyebrow and asked why she was studying in front of the TV, she gave me a sheepish grin.
Many people today delude themselves into believing that they are fantastic multi-taskers, and our students are no different. They don’t believe that all of the electronics they now have would be considered a distraction. In an effort of full disclosure, I would have to place myself in the camp, who at a much younger age, tried to do homework in front of the TV.
Please note, I said I tried not succeeded.
It lasted for all of about a minute before my mom caught me, the TV was turned off and I went to my room to work at my desk.
Things have changed over the last 30 years. In fact, it might be reasonable to say today’s students have the highest number of distractions yet. Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and all the rest of the social media outlets that I’m sure I’ve forgotten, their attention is being pulled in a multitude of directions to stimuli that often only last for a few seconds.
The end result is that their attention spans have decreased to almost nothing.
How does this decreased attention span and desire for multitasking affect their learning and retention? When I was teaching in the classroom, I saw the line dividing the two edges of student grades become more and more clear. We had students who consistently operated at the top levels, and those that were at the bottom. We had lost the middle student.
Do those students no longer exist? No, I think the students who were once considered average (the ones who scored 70-85) are still there intelligence wise, but it’s the added distractions that are causing the gaps to widen.
What can we as parents do? To begin with, I think the most important action we can take is to model the action we hope to instill in our children. When it’s time for you to finish up paperwork for the office or finish that report that is due next week, turn off the TV and the cell phone and work at a designated space.
What designated space should we use? In a perfect world we would all have home offices or extra bedrooms that would allow for us to work in a business like setting. However, the reality is we may need to be creative in finding our space. Maybe a corner of the dining room table or the breakfast bar can be utilized.
Is there room for a desk or workstation that could be placed in your child’s room for them to use? What about setting up a desk in another part of the house? We have a desk that sits in a corner of the living room that is available for use. When I first started my business, I used that desk to write at. A bit over a year ago I put a desk in a corner of the basement for my office, which I now lovingly call the dungeon.
Wherever you’re going to set up your designated space, be sure it has good lighting and enough space to spread out a bit
With a little imagination, you’ll be able to find a place which will work for your designated work space. Be consistent and model the desired behavior and in a short amount of time, everyone will get into the groove on how things need to be done.
When my daughter and I finished our discussion of how her day went, I turned the TV off and ushered her to a space more appropriate for studying.
She wasn’t working at a desk, but she was in her room, sitting on the floor in the middle of her papers. Her phone was being ignored and the only sound was her K-pop music at a respectable background level.
Her foot may have been tapping in time to the beat, but her mind was absorbing chemistry with minimal distractions.