If you teach in a 1:1 school I’m sure you have considered closing Facebook, Youtube, Skype and other popular applications/programs. Whenever I give instructions or have conversations with my students I always ask them to close the lid of the computer. I have earlier stated that block scheduling and the use of laptops is an ideal combination. Working with my English class we usually start of with a curriculum goal, questions are asked and finding the answers becomes the quest. That requires extensive use of the internet and perhaps talking to other students in other countries. Some times Facebook can be a help, but most times not.
Teaching sensible use
It is like being on a diet with your house full of candy. At first you resist, but when you are hungry and tired you give in. Have you ever sat down in front of your computer, expecting a lot of work to be done in a certain amount of time, only to find that you have done nothing work-related at all? Or that you’ve done a lot — just not what you planned to do?
If highly educated professionals are having problems staying focused on long pieces of writing, what about students? More and more schools are going 1:1, equipping students with personal computing devices without equipping their teachers with research-based pedagogy to support its use.
Tools that might help
By all means, start teaching the students to be sensible users of the internet. But as an addition I don’t see why we can’t use technology to help us stay more focused as well. I have tested some tools that might come in handy. And they are meant to help the students concentrate, not as a punishment. It has to be up to the students if they want to use this. I might tell the students that if they block Facebook in Crome, it will still work in Firefox, and I’m not going to check your computer. If you are not able to block Facebook when working on school related material the only one you are fooling is you! You might look around and see other students checking mail, Facebook or chatting and you know they are doing well in school. But most likely they would do better if they learned how to concentrate! Here I have found 3 different sites for most web-browsers!
- LeechBlock – LeechBox works with Mozilla Firefox. It is highly customizable and even lets you configure specific times to block individual time-wasting web sites. You can create six sets of websites to block, with each set having multiple sites and time restrictions. Make sure you go through all the available options to properly make use of the extension.
- FocalFilter – One Block, All Browsers is built to work with every web browser including Chrome, Firefox, Safari and IE. FocalFilter works on Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8.
You can download it for free here (it was last updated September 2012).
- StayFocusd is used with Chrome and increases your productivity by limiting the amount of time that you can spend on time-wasting websites. It is easy to use and you get a button next to the browser menu and you can instantly block the site for a certain time.
- Skype – is a huge attention killer and I haven’t figured out how to close down Skype. I think you just have to log off at certain times on your own!