Mark Alexander Williams

Distraction and wellbeing

by Mark Williams

One of the key emergent themes from my pilot study was that of technology as a distraction or a means of procrastination and this having a perceived negative effect on our sense of wellbeing. Rosen et. al (2013) find a negative connection between looking at social media during lectures and academic performance and suggest using "technology breaks" in a similar fashion to a coffee break to mitigate this.

Fang (2009) presents distraction as an opportunity and suggests a range of ways to integrate technology into learning to drive engagement and also ways to restrict access to technology or establish a culture of use between staff and students.

It's important to establish an understanding of appropriate use of technology within the learning environment and that could be through a verbal or written contract with the learners or agreeing at the outset of the session on how technology is being used. This could take the form of short statements eg. "Take notes/photos/videos here" "listen and don't take notes at this point".

Regardless of the approach, this is an increasing concern for students who are downloading apps to prevent distraction eg RainRain and Forestapp as well as those that enable it.

What prompted me to return to this train of thought though, was a recent post on of a hardware device to prevent distraction.

The DistractaGone is essentially a time locked safe for your phone that locks it away for a set period. The most entertaining image is that of the black box at the centre of the dinner table. This product is currently on Kickstarter and I believe comes from the same stable as the NoPhone. What's interesting about both products is that they suggest that we need to be close to our devices. In the NoPhone's case, it is acting as a surrogate, so we still feel physically connected even if we aren't remotely connected.

The NoPhone reached it's funding goal in 2014 and the DistractaGone looks like it will too in the next month or so, suggesting their is a market to restrict access to technology for those that find devices a distraction or a means of procrastination.