Dealing with Our Distracted Students

I don’t have to tell you that we live in a world full of distractions. Study after study reveals that our ability to maintain focus and remain “on task” is diminishing rapidly. There aren’t many places where this is more evident than in the classroom. Our students are distracted and their education is suffering. One potential solution to rhw Sistracted Students Dilemma is the Pomodoro Technique.
A 2012 poll conducted by Lifehacker found that The Pomodoro Technique is the most popular time management technique. The premise of the Pomodoro Technique is simple: divide your tasks into 25 minute chunks, work exclusively on your task for those 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break to refresh and handle small distractions. Then repeat the work-rest cycle. After three cycles or so, take a longer break to handle larger distractions, tasks, meals, etc. A pomodoro is sacred and cannot be interrupted or divided.

We’re big fans of the method and we produced a video detailing the method here. Edudemic recently had a post where they encouraged the use of the Pomodoro Technique in the classroom with the premise that by “reducing the time interval that students have to focus on a given task, they are actually able to increase their level of focus and productivity.” This seems to be a logical leap. If The Pomodoro Technique is effective in the workplace, why wouldn’t it be in schools?

There is one thing that I felt the piece missed as far as the Technique itself is concerned and that is that part of the efficacy of the Pomodoro Technique is based on the fact that you always have an understanding that your work period is short. As such, the Pomodoro Technique includes having a visible timer that so that you always no how little time is remaining. The Edudemic piece didn’t advise teachers to employ this method and I think it would only help in the process.

Second, the article only suggests using the technique for tasks. For example, if you want your students to tackle an hours worth of math problems, split that into 2 pomodoros. I wonder whether the presentation of materials, actual teaching, would also benefit from the technique. If students know that they will only need to listen to their teacher for 25 minutes and then they will get a short break, they may be more focused during actual teaching time.

As attention spans get shorter, we seem to be turning to technology to address the problem when some of the older, more old-school tools may just be the right fix.