Technology can sometimes help with focus in classrooms

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Reported by Clare Hennig

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Langara student Parteek Jangra works on his laptop in class. Photo by Clare Hennig.

Digital distractions, such as cell phones, tablets and laptops could help students concentrate in the classroom, depending on who you ask.

Some instructors and experts alike agree that there are benefits for students to use technology in the classroom, while some may prefer gadgets to be turned off and have students be more involved with their lessons of the day.

A UBC study linked smartphones to increased levels of hyperactivity and inattention amongst students, similar to the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Technology is not always distracting for people with ADHD

Dr. Derryck Smith, a Vancouver-based psychiatrist, said that technology is a tool he often recommends to his patients.

“I try to encourage people with ADHD to make full use of personal communication devices as a way of organizing their studies,” said Smith. “Technology is one of the things that can really help […] I don’t think that it necessarily has to be a distractor.”

Kay Lukes, an English department instructor at Langara College, has a similar philosophy that technology is beneficial to education.

Lukes also said 10 years ago, cell phones didn’t really have a place in the classroom.

“Now, at least a quarter of my students have their textbooks [downloaded] on their cell phones or their laptops,” said Lukes.

Langara professor thinks that classrooms are more productive without technology

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Some classes do not allow students to use their phones at all. Photo by Clare Hennig.

Another English instructor at Langara, Heather Jessup, acknowledged the educational benefits of technology but said she doesn’t allow her students to use smart phones in her class.

Any student caught checking their phone is asked to bring cookies for the whole class.

“One of the things that happens in a classroom that can’t possibly happen on our own is the incredible thinking that comes from collaboration. If we’re distracted and having another conversation, we’re not good collaborators,” Jessup said.

Jessup wants her students to be as present as possible and to be courteous to one another.

“For that hour or two hours [of class], we’re just together and talking about ideas,” Jessup said. “Sadly, that’s becoming more and more rare.”

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