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Students Utterly Distracted by Technology: New Study Concludes

Sites include . Published on November 5th, 2012. Written by Anthony West.

Let’s face it; you can’t walk into any classroom in the Western world without seeing the impact of technology. In well-to-do areas, students are slinging iPads in their backpacks and in areas where the money is not so abundant, many at last have a powerful smartphone. The student-generation of today is marching in stride with the growth of the digital zeitgeist.

What’s not so obvious though is the impact of technology on learning and social interaction. Only when someone takes pause and looks into it, do we really see the things that are unfolding as a result of more and more students gaining access to technology.

Pew has taken a look

Internet and web lifestyle research organization, Pew research Center, has published the results of its study into technology and its impact on student lifestyle and learning.

Pew found that although students have wider access to information as a result of technology, the sheer volume of it has caused a somewhat warped culture of studying, researching and ultimately learning and assimilation. The biggest problem is the curtailing of the attention span of students—easily seen in wider social groups of course, but particularly interesting given the role students play in replenishing’ the more productive members of modern society.

According to Pew, 87% of the teachers who took part in the study conceded that technology is molding an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans.” It didn’t end there; 64% of teachers said emphatically that today’s technology does little to enhance academic performance; instead all it does is present more distraction and barriers to learning.

There’s optimism among teachers

The study found that most teachers believe that in time things will even out. Although the technology is seen as distracting, there are some aspects that the majority of teachers feel is necessary and helpful. 77% said that internet search tools like Wikipedia and Google has made a positive impact on the lives of students. Many also feel that the distraction can be reduced or better managed if students are taught how to navigate the digital landscape. 47% said that the sooner digital literacy and content is incorporated into school curricular, the better it will be for all concerned.

Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project, believes that parents too have a role to play. Time management says Rainie, is an important skill that needs to be taught in the home. “Being an effective citizen in the network age is being shrewd about when you’re on the grid and off the grid, when you’re open to being diverted and when it’s time to buckle down,” says Rainie.

The current state of affairs offers mixed hope for the future. For sure the technology will become more abundant, and perhaps even more complex. If students now are not able to adapt and incorporate current technology in an efficient way, then the future will be no less distracting. On the other hand, great strides are being made in the arena of digitized education. This according to some researchers offers the hope that in the future, students will be better able to cope with the complexity and volume.

Only time will tell. For now iPads, Samsung Galaxy S3s and Kindle Fires rule the roost. Your job if you are a parent is to ensure that your kid does well because she has all three—otherwise what’s the point?

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