Mark Collins

Turning digital distractions into a resource for your classroom

Blog Post created by Mark Collins on Nov 3, 2016

Do you get frustrated by computers, tablets, and phones in your class? Do you feel that students are not paying attention to the material you carefully crafted? In a recent conversations with a few intro biology instructors, I discovered some innovative solutions to the in-class technology conundrum.


Create a Digital District in your Class

Firstly, acknowledging that everyone is a different learner is important. Sure, some students might be browsing Twitter, but some individuals need stimulation and input to be engaged and effective listeners. In the same way, a student with back problems might choose to stand rather than sit for an hour of class.


If one student's screen is distracting other students, that is a different scenario. You have the option to intervene. However, consider instead creating a “digital district” at the start of class to proactively prevent this issue. You know that all the students with computers are going to cluster on the side of the lecture hall with electrical outlets. So at the start of class, indicate that students using devices can sit in a particular area.


Now comes the fantastic part of this deal. You have instant access to any online resource through the students using devices in-class! You let the digital district know that you may call on any student with a device at a moment's notice to look up a fact or confirm a finding.


So imagine you are midway through a lecture and a student asks a questions that you don’t know off the top of your head. You might normally respond, “I’ll get you an answer for next time”. But now that you have a Digital District, the world wide web is at the fingertips of your students with devices. Simply ask one or two of them to investigate and come back to get an response a few minutes later.


This makes researching, fact checking, and understanding additional material part of the learning process.