The Importance of Focus and Understanding in an Increasingly Electronic World: reflection on learning

Over the last couple of decades, the inundation of digital media and computer technologies has changed the way we communicate, the way we learn, and the way we access information.  Our societal dependence on portable digital devices and technologies is not limited to the adult world. Young people are also engaging in and contributing to the rapid rise of social networking and digital media; the involvement by – and ‘dependence’ of – young people on these media show no signs of slowing down.

In classrooms across Ontario, cellphones, iPods, MP3 players, portable video games, Palm Pilots and BlackBerry technology are commonplace accessories for many of the students that we teach. These portable digital devices can hinder the abilities and academic growth of students by disrupting their focus and presence when attempting to learn. As students are becoming increasingly distracted by digital media and less focused when learning, it is essential that educators spend time teaching students about the benefits and significance of ‘focus’, ‘reflection’ and ‘presence’ as tools that promote learning.  Comprehension and retention are central to learning, and the significance of these psychological/educational factors is not typically highlighted.  Further, methods of retention are seldom, if ever, taught.

There is a tremendous benefit to informing students (and parents alike) about how the processes of the brain are associated with learning and how these learning pathways are disrupted by various forms of media.  By communicating the significance of these processes through an accessible language, students will be better informed and more able to improve their comprehension and focus in any learning environment.  These skills will enable students to ‘tune in’ to learning while still enjoying and reaping the benefits from portable digital devices and computer technologies.

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