Classroom distractions block the way to success


Owen Lepiksaar

Seniors Siddharth Rana, Jinal Nana, Mehul Pol do their best to pay attention in Advisory on Dec. 7, despite the allure of their devices.

Owen Lepiksaar, Staff Writer

It’s a casual day in the classroom. The teacher stands at the front of the room, giving a lesson for what has felt like hours for the students. Out of nowhere, a phone rings, and suddenly, the teacher’s voice fades away in a student’s head, replaced by thoughts of other activities.

It can take 25 minutes for a person to regain their focus after an interruption, according to an article published by Kentwood Preparatory School. Distractions in the classroom have been an issue that students struggle with, which can have a variety of negative results, according to an article by Shelly J. Schmidt in the Journal of Food Science Education, such as mental fatigue and lowered student performance. According to teachers, the issue originates from a constant source.

“The main distractions I see nowadays are phones and computers,” English teacher Danielle Simpson said. “I have to ask for students to look away from their devices because I look over and see that their heads are bent down, staring at a screen.”

Distractions in class do not always originate from what subject is being taught. The tendency to become distracted comes from the brain itself.

“People don’t really know that thinking actually demands a lot of calories from us,” psychology teacher Matthew Miles said. “[Thinking] can cause you to burn more energy. It’s like our brain has a defense mechanism that avoids high levels of energy, keeping it in a low cognition state, which the phone provides.”

A study published in Educational Psychology has also proven that cell phone use in the classroom brings down students’ grades. Students who used their devices for half of a lecture had their grades fall 5% when tested on the material in the lecture.

“Too often have students failed tests due to their devices,” math teacher Craig Primus said. “They believe that they can learn while being on their phone, which just isn’t true.”

Students often try to compensate for this by doing what is perceived as “multitasking.” Multiple studies show that 80% of students who tried to multitask in class took lower quality notes and retained less information compared to students that limited device usage.

“When you try to multitask, you’re actually conditioning your brain to be unable to focus,” Miles said. “It can cause something like ADHD, which is not you being unable to focus, but it’s that you’re lacking the energy it takes to take all your focus and put it on one object like your classwork.”

One of the reasons why students struggle to break away from their phones during class, particularly social media, is because social media platforms have removed a natural stopping point. 

“Social media has removed important stopping cues,” Miles said. “This is particularly problematic because it can result in students being unable to pull away from their devices.”

There are a few possible solutions that might assist in removing distractions. According to multiple studies found on the Harvard website, solutions include keeping distractions off a student’s person, turning off notifications, and attempting to actively participate in class, to avoid getting pulled back onto a device.

“Out of sight, out of mind is the phrase I would use,” Simpson said. “It might be difficult, but at the end of the day, it’s the best students can do.”