Transforming the Way We Learn: How Tech Breaks Help us Focus
In a series of thinktanK12 blog posts, we look at some trends we can expect to see in education in the near future, as well as introducing you to some of the influential people helping revolutionize education.
I came across an interesting study on multi-tasking this week, with some surprising suggestions. Psychologist Larry Rosen writes that all our technology, social networks, and devices are giving us a form of tech-induced obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention-deficit syndrome.
As a result, kids (and adults) are constantly wondering if they have a text, if there’s anything interesting on Facebook, if they have unanswered e-mails, and so on. It’s gotten so bad, Rosen says, that “the average computer programmer or medical student can only stay focused on a task in front of him- or herself for three minutes.”
To combat this, Rosen gives some interesting suggestions. He says that instead of trying to ignore the urge to text or browse Facebook, we should give in – within limits. A short “tech break,” Rosen says, serves to effectively reset the brain.
He says: If your brain keeps thinking about a text message you need to return, it’s better to send that text to get the nagging impulse out of your head. Once you stop thinking about sending that text, then you’ve literally freed up space in your brain to focus on more important things…
Rosen suggests that the brain works best when it has frequent breaks to reset it. Expecting students or adults to work on one task for a solid hour is unrealistic and unproductive. But constantly switching between Facebook and homework isn’t productive either.
Instead, he recommends giving kids 1 minute tech breaks for each 15 minutes of study time. A tech break could also be 15 minutes of video gaming or Youtube viewing for 30 minutes of focused work – this time could be used immediately or accumulated for later. By setting aside time for technology, our brains can then focus on the task at hand, without the looming temptation to constantly check our devices or social networks. The amount of time and type of break will vary, but finding the right balance is important for fostering good work habits in people of all ages.
Unplggd.com says “the important thing to remember when building tech breaks into your schedule is they should be frequent, but not too frequent and they need to be short, otherwise they won't serve to refresh and maintain focus but will pull focus all on their own.”
Rosen also suggests non-tech breaks for resetting the brain. Listening to music, practicing yoga, talking to a friend (in person, not online), and getting outside for a 15 minute walk all serve to reset and refocus the brain as well, though they may not satisfy your urge to see what’s happening on your Twitter feed…
I want to hear from you!
Do you build tech breaks into your day?
Do you give your kids tech breaks, and if so, how do you schedule them?
thinktanK¹² blog series: Transforming the Way We Learn