• Competing for Students' Attention in the Age of Distraction: A Discussion

      Fertig, Jason
      Topic/Problem Statement: As educators, we want our students to learn complex formulas, read challenging pieces of literature, and perhaps perform some academic research (Rousseau, 2006). Yet, can students who are quite addicted to smartphones perform deep work or are they stuck in a life of shallowness (Newport, 2016)? Evidence suggests that prolonged smartphone use robs students of the willpower necessary to perform the cognitively demanding tasks we ask of them (Baumeister and Tierney, 2012). Hence, in this session I aim (1) to present data on internet addiction, (2) to have the audience share their feelings on whether smartphones have changed students, and (3) stimulate interest in a work group dedicated to researching internet addiction and disseminating strategies for combating it. Context: I assume that there is a chance that while you are reviewing this submission, you have looked at your phone at least once and have multiple browser windows open. That is also how our students operate in class – and we cannot solve it by just telling students to put their phones away. Such short-term solutions do not produce long-term results. Students need to become aware of how their attention is diverted and their willpower is depleted. Approach: Given only 20 minutes, I aim to build an awareness of this issue through presenting some selected research on what smartphone use is doing to students. I also aim to report results of an internet fast assignment that my students performed. Ideally, I would also like to recruit a group of colleagues interested in working on this issue with me. Discussion: I use 2012 as a proxy for “when things changed in the classroom.†The iPhone was released in 2007, but around 2012, every student came to class with a device more powerful than the spaceship that went to the moon. Before 2012, when I entered the classroom, students were talking to each other. After 2012, most of them were face down in a screen until class started. Before 2012, I could engage a classroom in a period-long discussion. After 2012, they stopped responding and I had to alter my pedagogy to get them to respond (I posed a question, had them write “minute papers,†then asked what they wrote). I assume that I am not the only person seeing this phenomenon. Thanks for your time. References: Baumeister, R. F., & Tierney, J. (2012). Willpower: Rediscovering the greatest human strength. Penguin. Newport, C. (2016). Deep Work: Rules for Focus Success in a Distracted World. Grand Central Publishing. Rousseau, D. M. (2006). Is there such a thing as evidence-based management?. Academy of management review, 31(2), 256-269.